Climate Change: What Resorts Are Doing
Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) is the global voice of Colorado’s ski industry and represents the world’s premiere ski destinations. With 21 member resorts, CSCUSA encompasses 29,341 skiable acres, 3,634 snowmaking acres, 2,410ft average vertical rise, and 1,749 trails. Resorts offer a wide variety of terrain by utilizing the natural landscape of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, hence, CSCUSA resorts are making it their duty to be good stewards of the environment in which we ski.
By implementing new means of generating and conserving energy, sourcing more sustainable ways of construction and snowmaking, and making it a priority to give back to their communities, CSCUSA resorts are leading the way in protecting one of Colorado ski industry’s most valuable assets for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
While resorts are long-standing proponents and users of alternative energy, many resorts are adopting new wind and solar energy sources to power their on and off-mountain operations while always exploring new forms of alternative energy and energy efficiencies.
- Through solar energy, Aspen/Snowmass generates a total of 171.2kW with 147kW coming from a solar array installed at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) in Carbondale. The $1 million system sits on one-half acre of ranchland owned by the high school.
The electricity generated by the CRMS solar array powers the school’s science building, with excess energy fed into the town of Carbondale’s power grid. Annually, the installation will produce 200,000kWh (enough power for 20 average American homes) and keep 400,000 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.
Several other facilities around Aspen also make use of solar energy including a 2.3kW solar installation at Aspen Highlands ski patrol headquarters; a 10.6 kW solar installation at Thunder River Lodge; an employee housing complex in Carbondale; a 5kW array at The Little Nell hotel; a 4.3kW array at the Snowmass Club; and a 2.0 kW array at the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain.
Along with solar arrays, Aspen/Snowmass has explored alternative energy using spring runoff. The resort installed a 115kW micro-Hydro plant at Snowmass that produces power from melting snow. The golf clubhouse system reduces natural gas consumption by 2/3.
- Copper Mountain harnesses solar power with photovoltaic panels that line the south-facing roof of the Transportation Center in the Alpine Lot. The 4.2 kW solar installation provides a portion of the electricity for the building. The resort is also working to retrofit lighting fixtures with more energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) completed a full energy inventory of its Mountain Operations in 2008. The inventory included lifts, snowmaking, facilities and vehicles. As a charter member of the Colorado Industrial Energy Challenge, CBMR set the goal to reduce its overall energy consumption by two percent per year. Since 2008, through conservation and management, the resort has reduced electrical use by 17.15 percent, fuels by 28.5 percent, natural gas consumption by 47.2 percent and pumped 8.3 percent less water, exceeding the resort’s goals. Part of this reduction resulted from relocating the resort’s park and pipe area to a new location that requires less energy to pump water and air.
Additionally, CBMR has installed timers on the heaters in its lift shacks, enabling employees to be more comfortable while also significantly reducing energy use.
Through its energy efficient measures, CBMR is running a more cost-effective business and has reduced carbon emissions by more than 11 percent.
- Winter Park installed a small wind turbine at the top of Parsenn Bowl to provide power to the lift shack. The turbine offsets energy consumption and increases lift operation efficiency. Also, Winter Park’s electrical foreman designed and built hardware and software to create a resort-wide automatically controlled system – AreaNet – that shuts down heat to lift shacks and lift motor rooms when not needed.
In effect since 1997, AreaNet has expanded each year to now control snow melt systems with moisture and temperature sensors, ensuring that heat will not be used unless it is wet and below freezing at Snoasis, Sunspot, Mary Jane, the Village Cabriolet lift, the Private Lesson Center and Zephyr Mountain Lodge. AreaNet also has some control over gas appliances and heat as well as shutting down snow-making equipment when temperatures are too warm for optimum snow production.
- Wolf Creek currently purchase 100 percent of its power usage year round from a green power supplier, and has been recognized by the US Forest Service for its commitment to alternative energy.
Wolf Creek uses solar power for some of its outlying smaller buildings as a heat source along with running communication and safety equipment.
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are another method many resorts use to offset energy consumption. Each REC represents one megawatt hour of electricity as generated from a certified renewable energy source. Many of CSCUSA’s member resorts are using RECs to offset their energy use, especially in areas where alternative energy is not readily available.
- Aspen Skiing Company is one of five companies that contributed to build the first waste-methane-to-energy power plant west of the Mississippi River, located at the Elk Creek Coal Mine. Once completed, the power plant will be the second coal mine in the US to generate electricity from waste methane – enough to meet electricity needs for 2,000 homes, or the entire operations of Aspen’s four ski mountains (including its three hotels and 17 restaurants).
- Powderhorn offsets two of its three lifts with RECs and is planning to purchase RECs to offset more of the resort’s energy use in years to come.
- Steamboat’s RECs offset three percent of the resort’s total electricity requirements.
- Telluride’s RECs offset 1,000,000 kWh of electricity use each year. In conjunction with various partnerships over the past several years, Telluride Ski & Golf has offset 808,788 kilowatt-hours of power with the purchase of renewable energy credits.
- Winter Park’s RECs offset the Panoramic Express, Eagle Wind, Super Gauge Express and Village Cabriolet lifts, which combined equal 6.4 percent of the resort’s total electrical usage.
- Wolf Creek offsets 100 percent of year-round operations with RECs.
Through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or the LEED Certification System, and other green building initiatives, many CSCUSA resorts are dedicating themselves to sustainable and environmentally-responsible development.
- At Copper Mountain, the Woodward at Copper action sports facility was awarded a Green Globe third-party certification for green building practices and design. The Woodward building features energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and energy-efficient lighting.
- Aspen/Snowmass has instituted a Green Building Policy that aims to reduce the impact of building and development by adhering to green building guidelines and participating in the LEED certification program. The Snowmass Golf Clubhouse, Sam’s Restaurant, and the Aspen Holiday House Employee Housing are all LEED certified buildings.
- At Monarch Mountain, the majority of lighting is done with energy efficient light bulbs, with motion-sensor lighting in some areas.
- Telluride recently de-lamped the Corporate Offices and the Ski & Snowboard School Administration buildings, reducing the number of fluorescent lights by 50percent and all T8 fluorescent bulbs were replaced by the more efficient T5bulbs. Additionally, LED lights took the place of all PAR30 incandescent bulbs.
- Wolf Creek mills most of its own timber for construction purposes from fallen trees and spruce beetle infested trees. All Wolf Creek restrooms are water-free composting or have low flow toilets installed.
Snowmaking and Snow Equipment
By using more efficient snowmaking machines, as new snowmaking and upgrades to existing snowmaking are brought online, many CSCUSA resorts are saving rather than spending energy when it comes to making snow and slope maintenance.
- Aspen/Snowmass has begun using a dirt-based superpipe at Buttermilk to reduce the amount of snowmaking necessary in the winter. The dirt pipe saves more than $15,000 in electricity and 4 million gallons of water each year.
- At Arapahoe Basin, an airless snowmaking system requires 20 percent less energy than traditional equipment.
- Copper has been able to reduce its snowmobile fuel consumption by 40 percent in the past few years.
- Crested Butte made energy reductions by investing in new Low Energy HKD snow guns that were awarded to the resort as part of the 2010 Sustainable Slopes program. Crested Butte also has a sophisticated tracking system for peak energy loads. When temperatures are below 15 degrees, employees shut off the compressed air in the tower and run water instead, saving large amounts of energy.
- Eldora continues to improve the efficiency of its snowmaking system, therefore lowering its energy demand.
- Steamboat uses a similar airless snowmaking technology, with nearly nine miles of pipe installed over the past few seasons.
- Combining efforts of added snowmaking coverage with state-of-the-art energy efficient guns and constructing its half-pipe and other terrain park features out of dirt, Purgatory was able to reduce water and energy consumption through snowmaking and conserve 190,000 gallons of water during the 2010-11 season.
- In addition, new snowcats were purchased for the season, reducing fuel usage and saving more than 14,000 gallons of fuel, greatly reducing Purgatory’s carbon footprint.
- Telluride recently completed an operational and energy analysis on existing snowmaking equipment compared to the new, energy-efficient HKD air/water guns. With the current ground guns, the Ski Area consumes 39,627 kwh to produce snow on 11 acres. The HKD guns require only 12,345kwh: a 68percent savings. After this study, Telluride received a snowmaking grant through (National Ski Area Association) NSAA’s Sustainable Slopes Program, which includes five high-efficiency snowmaking guns and a consultation from a reputable sustainability engineering firm, including a utility analysis and customized on-site energy audit, which took place in the 2012 summer.
- Wolf Creek has four snowmaking fan guns that it uses for its entire snow making system which is designed to supplement the natural snowfall.
Alternative Public Transportation
The emergence of energy efficient public transportation has made a positive impact on resort transportation systems while providing incentives and rewards for guests and employees that use the systems.
- The Summit Stage bus runs from Breckenridge to Arapahoe Basin, stopping at multiple locations in-between. The Summit Stage reports that riding the bus saves 20 pounds of CO2 emissions per day.
- Employees and guests at Arapahoe Basin who carpool to the ski area are rewarded for using public transit with discounted lift ticket rates.
- Each season, millions of passengers use Aspen/Snowmass’ alternative transportation – the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA). The RFTA operates a number of hybrid buses and has increased the percentage of bio-diesel buses. RFTA provides an extensive commuter bus services within the Roaring Fork Valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
- In support of the benefits of public transportation and carpooling, Copper Mountain offers carpooling incentives to guests who arrive with four or more people in their vehicle. On select weekends, Copper offers premier parking in the Alpine Lot for those who carpool.
- Durango’s carpool program provides incentives of $7 – 10 per day to employees who carpool and includes free, close-in parking and a Carpool-only Parking Lot for cars with three or more people.
- Environmental efforts of Eldora include public transportation advocacy. Eldora is the only Front Range ski resort accessible via Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus route.
- Monarch Mountain operates a daily shuttle for employees between Poncha Springs, Salida, and the mountain. On Saturdays, Monarch also offers a guest shuttle from Salida through the Parks and Recreation Department.
- Powderhorn also promotes alternative transportation with a town shuttle from Grand Junction to Powderhorn on weekends and holidays.
- Steamboat's free busses, used for employee and guest transportation to and from parking, are alternative-transportation vehicles, which reduce the vehicle miles traveled and ultimately reduce emissions and traffic congestion.
- At Sunlight, the Employee Transit System provides more than 100,000 employee passenger miles per season. The resort’s guest Park and Ride Program provides scheduled ride service from the Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop in Glenwood Springs to the resort.
- The Telluride/Mountain Village gondola system, the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States, officially opened December 20, 1996. A capital outlay of approximately 70 percent of the original construction cost was provided by the Ski Area, and 1 percent of annual lift ticket sales are allocated to gondola operations. Approximately 2.25 million passengers ride the gondola annually and over 26 million riders have been safely transported since opening day.
Wolf Creek offers free parking and free park shuttles to all guests. Wolf Creek has spent more than 1.5 million dollars on parking lots which includes design, construction, materials and paving. Wolf Creek remains committed to shuttling employees during peak periods and is exploring other public transportation options.
CSCUSA resorts are continually recognized for their efforts in environmentalism and sustainability.
- Arapahoe Basin was voted #3 in Top Ten Green Ski Resorts by SkiNet.com in April 2009. In the same month the resort’s environmental manager, Sha Miklas, was awarded Essential Earthy Employee by High Country Conservation Center. In past years, Arapahoe Basin has also received multiple NSAA Silver Eagle Awards. In 2008, the resort won the award for Excellence in Visual Impacts, and in 2005 won the award for Excellence in Water Conservation.
- In 2010, Purgatory received the Clif Bar Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Fish and Wildlife Habitat Protection, one of the ski industry’s highest environmental honors. Purgatory was recognized for its comprehensive efforts in planning and implementing the Legends expansion project, which increased the resort’s total skiable acreage by 10 percent and improved forest health and wildlife habitat.
- Recent accolades for Aspen/Snowmass include, the 2008 Clif Bar Silver Eagle Award for Environmental Education, the 2008 Snowmass Club Golf Course Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program Certification, the 2008 NSAA Best Overall Marketing Programming (resorts with 500,000+ skier visits – recognizing Aspen/Snowmass’ compact fluorescent distribution program), and the 2008 City of Aspen ZGreen Membership – recognizing exemplary environmental stewardship.
- Telluride has been a finalist for NSAA’s Silver Eagle Environmental Award multiple times: Green Printing in 2010 and Snowshoe Stewards in 2009. In 2006, Telluride took the Silver Eagle Award for Fish & Wildlife Habitat Protection. Earlier, in 2002, Telluride received Regional Forester’s “Caring for the Land” Stewardship Award and the renowned Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence for the Prospect Bowl Expansion.
- Winter Park has received several environmental awards including the 2009 NSAA Silver Eagle Award for its Excellence in Visual Impact, the 2008 Silver Partner in Leadership from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the NSAA 2007 Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Visual Impact.
- Wolf Creek is one of 11 Colorado ski areas that received the Sustainable Business Practices award by the U.S. Forest Service in 2006.
Many resorts have developed land management programs that protect vegetation from snow making/contouring equipment and maintain maximum vegetation cover.
- Over the past several years, Purgatory implemented conservation measures as it added terrain with the Legends expansion and created The Ambassadors Glade, which further increased the resort’s skiable acreage and improved forest health and wildlife habitat through a selective tree clearing and thinning process.
- Purgatory also constructed the half-pipe and other terrain park features out of dirt and utilized a new technique and product called biochar, which helps store carbon in the ground, improves water quality and increase soil fertility for forest rehabilitation.
- Steamboat ski resort recently embarked on the largest logging phrase to date at the ski resort removing approximately 100 acres of dead lodgepole pine trees on the lower mountain, additionally the resort participated in Re-Tree Colorado, a reforestation project created by a Steamboat resident in an effort to replant the landscape affected by the lodgepole pine beetle.
Most of the hiking and biking trails on Steamboat Mountain were built by hand to minimize impacts. As the resort continues to grow its mountain biking offerings, trail designs and improvements are based on environmental factors such as wind throw, exposure, and maintenance of healthy tree stands, wildlife concerns, and visual impacts. The integrity of natural water courses and wetlands are protected and buffered.
Special re-vegetation practices, which utilize natural grasses and plants provide improved wildlife habitat for many foraging species. Steamboat Ski Resort Corporation is an active member of the Colorado Native Plant Society and has an ongoing employee education program in place.
Where pertinent, management practices on the mountain include stacking low brush or slash, or dispersing brush to provide habitat for the many species that thrive on this type of habitat. This slash management practice also serves to slow surface runoff, return soil nutrients, and provide shade for new forest growth.
- Sunlight developed a vegetation management program to balance maximum forest cover with safe and varied terrain.
- Since 2004, Telluride has been a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through Audubon International. Telluride’s internal and very stringent Water Quality Management Plan ensures the protection of the health and integrity of all water sources.
- For the past ten years Wolf Creek has seasonally removed spruce beetle -infested trees in an attempt to mitigate the onslaught of this pest. Currently Wolf Creek is besieged by several billion spruce beetle that have come onto the permit from both the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests. Wolf Creek will continue to work with the US Forest Service on removing hazard and fire trees. Currently Wolf Creek estimates that 50 to 70 percent of all mature engelmann spruce will be lost during this natural process.
Wolf Creek continuously monitors for soil erosion and tests water in all creeks twice a year. This test data is available for the past 12 years.
- Winter Park continues to work with the United States Forest Service on its award winning pine-beetle mitigation.