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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Can a Ski Resort Be “Green”?

Posted by Alex | October 20th, 2011 | Filed under Environmental Change, Partnerships, Sustainability

NAU0068Our winter stoke Giveaway is going on now; sign up here!

Let’s face it: sometimes a love of the outdoors can force an environmentalist into uncomfortable positions. Road trips to the desert require gas, your kayak is made out of petro-chemicals, and that long dreamed of trip to Patagonia is going to require one CO2-heavy flight. Then winter rolls around, and if you love to ski (as I do), you might start to wonder if all those lifts, groomers and lodges we use are contributing to a global warming trend that means less pow, and more slush.

So what’s a responsible skier to do? Yes, everything we do to enjoy the outdoors has an impact—even ski-touring has a carbon footprint—but that’s not a reason to throw up our hands. Making an educated decision about where you ski, just like what you drive, can have a powerful influence over the impact of your actions.

That’s because there are important choices to be made when it comes down to how to run a ski resort. Resorts are large, meaning the choices they make—good and bad—have a bigger environmental impact than those we each make individually. How they make snow, how they deal with waste, whether they serve on disposable dishware: when you serve thousands of people a day, these choices add up.

NA0185That’s why we’ve been so glad to see the steps that some of our favorite ski areas have begun to take to address their energy efficiency, water usage and carbon footprint. As part of our Winter Stoke giveaway (sign up here to win one of two full-value prize packages, including lift tickets, Nau gear and more) we checked in with Mt. Hood Meadows and Stratton Mountain Resort to see what they’re doing to make their operations more sustainable.

Just up the road on Mt. Hood, our friends at Meadows are taking advantage of the abundant wind in Oregon and powering 100% of their operations with Wind Energy Credits. They’re also saving over a quarter million gallons of water each year with newly installed water-efficient appliances. And, true to Oregon’s strong locavore spirit, they’re sourcing local produce and serving it on china, not paper you throw away.

Across the country in Vermont, the folks at Stratton Mountain are also showing how investing in efficient infrastructure can save money and help the environment. They’ve installed 300 new high-efficiency snow guns, which—given how much snow they make each year—could save almost two million kilowatt-hours of electricity. Stratton was also the recipient of the Clif Bar/NSAA Sustainable Slopes Grant this spring, which they’re using to install four Big Belly Solar trash compactors, greatly reducing the the number of waste disposal trips required. They’ve also eliminated disposable dishware, a change they estimate will save roughly 75,000 soda cups, 61,000 spoons, 30,000 forks, 28,000 paper plates, 23,000 knives and 17,750 soup containers.

Of course, the ski areas have as much invested in a healthy planet as skiers do: saving energy is just good business. As skiers, we can help make it make even better business sense by choosing to enjoy those resorts who take seriously their responsibility to be good environmental stewards.

So educate yourself on the efforts your local hill is taking; it’s a step toward positive change, and toward ensuring that there will be snow for future generations.

Like what you’ve heard? Sign up here for our Winter Stoke Giveaway to win lodging for three nights, one dinner, rentals and lift tickets for two at Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont or two 10-time passes at Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon. Each winner will also get a Nau winter jacket, pants, down top and insulation layer.

4 Responses to “Can a Ski Resort Be “Green”?”

  • October 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Stewart says


    nice article and interesting question.
    However you need to look further than the operations of the ski resort. This is what we did in France: we did a carbon footprint study of 10 different ski resorts.
    And what comes out is that the main CO2 impact of ski resort is… the gas used in the cars by the skiers to get there (57%). The second biggest impact is the heating for the buildings (27%).
    So Yes, choose a resort that has gone a bit further and has set up a proper CSR policy but it starts with us.
    If you choose to go in the car, fill it up with your friends, share the gas and the cost. Some resort will give you a discount if there are 4 people or more in the car, others will give you free parking right next to the lift.
    And if you’re staying, don’t forget to turn the heating down when you’re not in and/or choose a building that has been properly insulated or retrofitted.

    And if you want more information you can check out our NGO’s webiste: http://www.mountain-riders.org/index_en.php or drop me a line. I’m happy to talk about it, but you’ll to catch me when I’m not on the slopes!

  • October 25, 2011 at 10:02 am | Alex says

    Great info, Stewart; it’s always great to put real data to these kinds of questions. Your results remind me of what we found looking at clothing: the biggest impact in the lifecycle of a garment comes not from making, shipping, or selling the garment. It comes from washing it. Both data sets make the point that the individual decisions we make have a big impact when we add them up.

    See you on the slopes!

  • October 31, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Greg Foweraker says

    Hi Nau folks,
    Nothing like stirring the pot eh? As i read this thought kitchen piece I couldn’t help but think that in addition to the toe print of the actual ski resort there is the broader issue of the footprint getting to and from-often via planes, trains (sometimes) and automobiles. Allow me to suggest in addition to thinking about ski area operations we also look at our own patterns of resort consumption and consider taking fewer trips of longer duration. Heck, it might even be less frantic than the “dawn to dusk” routine of a ski weekend?
    best and keep up the good work

  • December 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Ski Resort says

    Oh yes! We can visit a ski resort taking measures to protect the environment. Then we can also choose green ski equipment with green clothing attire which are constructed of recycled and recyclable materials. This is exciting!

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