Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sustainability on ski resorts' to-do list

Note: Hey there, Jenn-fans, it's her favorite sister-in-law, Melissa. Long time no post here, but this story seemed made for GLR, so here goes.

I just got back from Pat's Peak, a ski area in Henniker, NH. Just for the heck of it, as a way of reliving a nice day on the mountain, I grabbed one of the Peak's brochures from our motel's tourist info area. I wasn't hunting for an environmental angle, but, lo and behold, the brochure referred to something called Sustainable Slopes. I had to know more.

Sustainable Slopes is a National Ski Areas Association charter introduced in 2000 as "a framework for sustainability in our operations," according to charter documents. More and more ski resorts around the country are signing on, along with participants from resorts in Canada, New Zealand and Spain. The purpose: to get participating resorts moving in the direction of lessening their environmental impacts in a host of areas.

Under this banner, many ski areas are turning to alternative snowmaking technologies and purchasing -- and in some cases, installing -- wind power (even if it's in the form of offsets) to cut their use of fossil fuels and increase efficiency. Some are also using bio-fuel to heat guest areas and bumping up their on-site recycling efforts.

Many are encouraging guests to cut their motors in dropoff and pickup areas rather than idling. Others are promoting carpooling as an option -- even offering ways to match skiers who are driving with ones who need a lift.

Like any other green effort, this has its doubters, most of whom say that without accountability built into the program (it's currently voluntary and unregulated), this amounts to the ski resort industry slapping green-tinted goggles on its customers.

It's a point, but here's another: Without snow and temperatures cold enough to make more snow, skiing (especially here in New England) will one day become a memory. So taking on global warming is just self-preservation for ski resorts (though I'm sure there are some who do it for the planet). For those who have figured that out and genuinely started down the road, taking the steps they can as they can, I have only good things to say, so five leaves to them and to Sustainable Slopes for helping the ski industry step up.

Keep on going! For everyone else, you get your leaves on a case-by-case basis.

Note: Here were a couple of read-worthy articles I found when I was researching:

A 2009 list of Treehugger's 7 greenest bets for ski resorts
An MSNBC piece about ski resorts purchasing wind energy offsets


Jenn said...

Right on! I love to hear that environmentally responsible efforts are being made in industries you normally would never think might adopt a Green attitude! Does this mean you can write off the ski trip? haha :-)

Melissa said...

I could, but then I'd probably have to get paid so I could have taxes to owe so that I needed to write it off!