Mountain Resorts Greening Up

To say ski and snowboard resorts are "greening up" is unfortunately a little too close to the literal truth in this era of climate change. While in the past the ski industry has not been the poster child of the environmental movement, year after year of decreased snow pack and shorter seasons (along with a rather convincing act of eco-arson), has woken up the resorts to the need to clean up their own acts and get involved in the movement to stop global warming.

According to Outside magazine, a four-person, high-speed quad chairlift emits 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in one ski season. A big resort like Vail Mountain in Colorado has 14 high-speed quads and that's less than half of their total lifts. Add to that a fleet of snowcats and snowmaking equipment as well as all of the energy required to run the lodges and hotels. Add to that all the energy used to get people to the mountain in planes and SUVs and you start to get the idea of what a mountain resort's carbon footprint looks like. No that's not Sasquatch.

With the resorts starting to take action, environmentally conscious skiers and snowboarders can now put their money where their politics are in choosing their winter fun destination. Yet, it seems that almost every ski resort in the country has some mention of their environmental goodwill on their website and in their marketing materials. So how do you tell the fluff from real action?

One way is to choose from the list of 20 U.S. ski resorts who are voluntarily offsetting 100% of their electricity use by buying renewable energy credits or from the additional 47 resorts that are using some alternative fuel sources to power lifts and other equipment. Here's the list of the U.S. ski resorts currently offsetting 100% of their energy use:

California: Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, Heavenly

Colorado: Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Crested Butte, Snowmass, Wolf Creek, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone

Maine: Shawnee Peak

New Hampshire: Mount Sunapee

Oregon: Mount Ashland

Vermont: Middlebury Ski Bowl, Okemo Mountain, Stratton Mtn

Wyoming: Grand Targhee

(Source: National Ski Areas Association)

You can also look at the "Ski Area Environmental Scorecard" to find out how the resorts compare on their current enviro-choices. The evaluation categories include each resort's programs for conserving natural resources, managing wildlife habitat, and dealing with pollution. However, the biggest emphasis here is on whether or not they are in the real estate business or acting as stewards of the wilderness around them. Here are the ten top-rated resorts doing their part for the environment.

Aspen Mountain, CO

Buttermilk Ski Resort, CO

Alpine Meadows, CA

Sundance Resort, UT

Aspen Highlands, CO

Mount Bachelor, OR

Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA

Wolf Creek Ski Area, CO

Bogus Basin Mountain Resort, ID

Alta Ski Area, UT

Choosing a greener resort is key to living the change, but there are other things you can do. Here are some ideas:

1. Carpool. Either pile your friends into one car or ask a perfect stranger. In Colorado checkout SkiCarpool where you can find a carpool to any of the resorts.

2. Off-set your own energy usage to get up to the mountains.

3. Stay close to the resort instead of commuting.

4. Don't put your hotel towels on the floor unless they're really dirty.

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