Global warming and ski resorts don't mix well. While it's true that it still snows in the winter even in a warmer climate, the fact remains that the long-term prospects for ski resorts, especially those found at lower elevations, look grim in the face of warming.
In 2008, Vail Resorts, the largest ski area in the U.S., announced that they would cut their energy use by 10 percent. CEO Rob Katz said, "We figured we could probably get 5 to 7 percent just by changing behavior. And we felt a number of other steps could get us to 10 percent."
Since then they've gone after reducing their energy use with a systemic line of attack — they've installed 38 energy monitoring meters around the mountain so they can pinpoint where the most energy is being used, buy greener equipment when old models break down beyond repair, and encouraged their employees to look for ways to operation more efficiently. They used 6.1 percent less electricity in the first year but haven't yet hit their 10 percent goal. That makes sense though as you'd expect they picked the lowest hanging fruit in the first year.
Ski resorts are far from being truly green. To start, tracts of forest must be cleared for trails and buildings, and roads pop up, drawing in people who drive up in cars from far-flung hometowns. There's a not-insignificant environmental footprint that comes with every ticket and pass sold and every run skied or ridden.
But skiing and snowboarding is super fun. This year is my 21st season snowboarding (the above photo of me was taken yesterday at Sugarloaf, which had just been pounded with 50 inches of snow over the previous five days) and I just took my 7- and 5-year-old daughters riding for the first time this past weekend. I plan on hitting the slopes for as long as my body will hold out — I would like to be doing runs past 100. A lot of other people feel the same way, so for as long as there's snow for us to slide down on, there will be ski resorts. As long as there are ski resorts they need to keep working to get greener. Week by week and year by year, they need to work to be greener in every way possible. Someday in the future, after a lot of work and investment, skiing and snowboarding could be close enough to being truly green that it'd be hard for the casual viewer to see the difference.
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