Drought or no, Lake Tahoe ski resorts making improvements | Green Bucks | SierraSun.com

Drought or no, Lake Tahoe ski resorts making improvements | Green Bucks

Amy Berry and Lisa Wallace
Special to the Bonanza

Editor’s Note

This story is the next in a monthly series deriving from a partnership between the Sierra Sun, and the Tahoe Fund and Truckee River Watershed Council, to tell stories from local businesses that have collected donations via the Green Bucks program.

As we deal with the fourth year of drought in Tahoe, a lot of people are wondering if this is what Tahoe winters will be from now on. Is it climate change? Is it the new normal? Is it just an unusually strong set of high pressure systems set out to rob us of our powder days and strong flowing streams?

These are questions that will be asked and answered over the coming months and years. What we do know now is that there are still a lot of environmental improvements to be made in the Tahoe Region regardless of what does or doesn’t fall from the sky.

With the current focus on snowpack and snowfall, we thought now would be a good time to focus on what some of our area ski resorts are doing to help improve the environment.

Ski resorts in Tahoe bear a great responsibility to protect the environment in which they operate while also providing an exceptional customer experience.

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows are two Green Bucks business partners that are taking the lead in making environmental improvements on the ski hills.

In the summer months, Heavenly puts a strong focus on erosion reduction in areas of the mountain close to creeks and Stream Environment Zones.

Since 2012, they have reduced excessive sedimentation on more than three acres by infiltrating storm water and spring snow melt run-off. They have recycled hundreds of tons of pine needles on these projects.

The results are a significant reduction of erosion potential. Heavenly’s parent company, Vail Resorts, has reduced energy consumption by over 16 percent since 2008. This is part of a successful long-term energy reduction strategy that will continue into 2020.

Recognizing climate change as a major issue for the ski industry, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows has dedicated resources to reducing its carbon footprint.

Since 2012, they have reduced CO2 emissions by more than 13 pecent with plans for further reductions. This was accomplished through upgrades to the heating systems in their headquarters and by working with homeowners in The Village at Squaw Valley to replace old heating units.

At High Camp, automated controls were installed to reduce electricity and propane use. Last year, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows installed over 1,500 energy efficient T8 and LED bulbs. In The Village at Squaw Valle,y they installed 1,300 CFL lights.

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows support community nonprofits working to improve the local environment. Through Green Bucks, they invite their customers to add $1 donations to lift tickets, room nights and food & beverage purchases.

Together, their guests contribute more than $75,000 annually to support watershed restoration, hiking and biking trails, and environmental education. Projects such as the Lakeside Bike Trail, the Van Sickle Bi-State Park and the new regional stewardship campaign called Take Care.

Ski resorts prefer to show off the environment through the fun of half-pipes and the beauty of vistas. But it’s the closer inspection of the less exciting boilers, lights, and erosion control work that show their environmental commitment.

Lisa Wallace is executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council. Amy Berry is executive director of the Tahoe Fund.

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