Squaw-Alpine: Climate change an industry threat to Tahoe resorts | SierraSun.com

Squaw-Alpine: Climate change an industry threat to Tahoe resorts

Margaret Moran
Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows CEO Andy Wirth.
Courtesy photo |

By the numbers

2013: 11,430 estimated metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

2012: 13,765 tons

2011: 13,205 tons (Squaw and Alpine merger)

2010: 9,722 tons

More online: Click here to view a digital copy of the 16-page report.

Source: Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — For the past four years, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows management has been “quietly, but assertively” working on improving the resort’s sustainability practices, officials said this week.

Key efforts have focused on reducing the ski area’s carbon footprint, as highlighted in its recently released “Environmental & Community Report 2014.”

“…. We have an obligation as a responsible corporation to reduce our environmental impact,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of the resort. “As a well-known ski resort, we hope to inspire and compel other ski resorts and businesses to do the same and see how they can make improvements in their own operations.”

According to the report, in 2013, Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,700 tons by making boiler upgrades, installing automated controls at High Camp and replacing more than 1,500 light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones.

Also in 2013, Squaw Valley became the first California ski resort to install electric car charging stations, resulting in 4,750 emission-free miles driven from December 2013 through April 2014.

Other transit-emission saving efforts, according to the report, include a free shuttle making runs between Squaw and Alpine, and contributions of more than $60,000 annually to Tahoe Area Regional Transit to ensure employees have an environmentally friendly way to get to work.

As for snowmaking, more than $5.2 million has been invested in infrastructure in the past three years, which the resort said has reduced the amount of water, compressed air and power needed to make snow.

“I have seen firsthand the commitment Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows have made to operating a sustainable resort — their actions are real,” Tuckee’s Jeremy Jones, a professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters, said in the report.


Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows is among those who recognize current and future impacts of climate change, said Michael Gross, director of risk management at Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, which is one of the areas highlighted in the report.

“Climate change will not (be) solved by one person, one business or one country alone,” said Gross, who’s also identified as Squaw/Alpine’s “director of environmental initiatives” in the report. “We all need to work together toward a common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and C02 levels because winters without snow would be a real grim place to live in, and our business depends on snow.”

According to the report, projected impacts of climate change to the ski industry include later seasonal snow, less snow coverage, earlier wet snow avalanches and, on average, shorter winters.

By the 2050s, ski seasons are projected to be three to six weeks shorter in California’s Sierra Nevada, the report states.

“Climate change is a growing, long-term threat to all ski resorts,” Wirth said. “However … we very much have the ability to adapt and hedge our businesses … So, while climate change is most certainly a real threat, it’s not a direct threat to our existence as viable businesses.”

Wirth went on to say, “There are many facets to our ability to hedge our business, not the least of which is our snowmaking capabilities, which have been a focus of our capital investment over the past three years. Since the mid-80s, the length of ski seasons has actually materially increased with the advent of snow making. We have other tools by which we can effectively manage our business through such challenging times.”

Some future sustainable efforts planned by the resort include Squaw’s Member’s Locker Room receiving a high-efficiency boiler in 2015; analyzing solar power installations; and continuing to expand recycling and composting efforts.

“We are dedicated to preserving our winters and alpine environment for current and future generations,” the report states in closing. “We understand that our business is dependent on our ability to care for and cherish our natural resources … We pledge to continue to reduce our footprint, remain early-adopters of sustainable technologies and to work within our community to encourage our peers and partners to do the same.”

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