Local ski resorts scored on environmental impacts | SierraSun.com

Local ski resorts scored on environmental impacts

Greyson HowardSierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunSquaw Valley was awarded an A grade by the Ski Area Citizens Coalition in their annual ranking of environmentally conscious resorts. One of Squaw's low-impact features is the cable car, which runs on an energy-efficient electric motor six days a week.
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A national group has again graded area ski resorts for their environmental friendliness but the resorts with low grades dont feel they got a fair shake.The Ski Area Citizens Coalition, which includes Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance, creates the annual scorecard that ranks resorts for their environmental impacts and practices.While Squaw Valley earned the groups top grade, the group knocked the practices of Northstar-at-Tahoe. The resort received the lowest score among the handful of North Tahoe-area resorts included in the national survey, given a D grade mostly for its rapid development.The resorts envisioned growth includes plans in conjunction with East West Partners to develop 800 acres of land, continuing work at the mid-mountain Ritz Carlton hotel, in addition to large-scale work already completed in the village, according to the scorecard.But Northstar spokesperson Jessica VanPernis said the resorts owner, the Booth Creek company, doesnt agree with how the scores are assigned.Its unfairly biased against any kind of growth, and there is no accountability, VanPernis said in a phone interview.VanPernis said the coalition didnt account for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the village, which she said is the first mountain resort village to qualify for the green-building standard.On the other end of the grade scale, Squaw Valley USA earned an A rating from the group, reflecting the resorts increasingly green practices.The coalition said it gave Squaw its highest grade because the ski resort has reduced energy consumption by using energy-efficient snow guns, using biodiesel in vehicles and retrofitting old buildings.Squaw has put a huge focus on the environment in the last 10 years, Squaw Valley spokesperson Savannah Cowley said by phone Friday. We have an environmental management program that spends the entire summer on erosion control, water quality, and revegetation.In addition, she said the resort has added geothermal heating in some buildings, and a more-efficient motor for the cable car.Cowley defended the Ski Area Citizens Coalitions scorecard.Resorts that dont score well are quick to say, Where are they getting their information? Cowley said. But, they really do go to the resorts and give every opportunity to give information on environmental practices.Its a turnaround from 2000, when agents with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raided the resort during an investigation into alleged violations from construction that polluted a tributary of the Truckee River.In 2005, Squaw Valley Ski Corp. agreed to pay California $900,000 to settle a lawsuit filed in connection with the dispute.Squaw is a great example of a resort that has not only stopped the bad things they used to do, but is also taking on some more proactive programs, said Autumn Bernstein of the Sierra Nevada Alliance.South of Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort got an F for the second straight year, Heavenly Mountain Resort remained at a C, and Sierra-at-Tahoe dropped one grade from last year to a B.Kirkwood Chief Executive Officer David Likins excoriated the report, telling the Tahoe Daily Tribune, There is a very strong bias against growth.He and other local operators contend the Ski Area Citizens Coalition punishes resorts that attempt to improve and remain competitive. Sun news service Adam Jenson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.