Resorts ‘grades’ improving on environment, group says |

Resorts ‘grades’ improving on environment, group says

Sierra ski locations fared better than any other Western region, with Alpine Meadows receiving the highest grade in the state, and Squaw Valley receiving the lowest marks.

“A number of [resorts] have been proactively decreasing greenhouse gases,” said Joan Clayburgh, executive director of Sierra Nevada Alliance, a member of the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition. “We have seen very creative and proactive measures that these resorts are practicing.”

Grades are awarded by assigning point values for levels of expansion, road construction, real estate development and other activities. Those with the least expansion in undisturbed terrain, are awarded the highest scores. Information is gathered from public records and surveys distributed to the resorts.

The coalition has been handing out the grades for the last four years, but the Sierra Nevada Alliance has only been involved in the grading over the last two years, when the coalition began including all of the major resorts in the area.

Alpine Meadows received an “A” for the second year. Brad Wilson, director of marketing highlighted efforts such as erosion-control programs, use of biodiesel fuel in machines and vehicles, and recycling efforts.

As for their high marks for little expansion, Wilson added, “We are not going to build a village on the mountain. That’s not who we are.”

Northstar-at-Tahoe, which scored among the lowest in the state does not stand behind the judgments of the scorecards.

“We encourage people to check out our annual environmental record, which tells the real story,” said Communication Manager Nicole Belt.

Belt said Northstar filled out the survey distributed by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, because it declined to last year and received an “F.”

“According to the way the survey is weighted, any growing resort will score low,” said Belt, who noted that the resort’s use of biodiesel fuel and emphasis on carpooling and recycling were not reflected in the grade.

Clayburgh said that the scores weighted development very heavily because that is the activity that has the greatest impact on the environment.

“There is a cost to the environment and that is what we are calling attention to,” she said, adding that ski areas can upgrade without increasing the footprint of their resort.

Boreal ski resort’s Director of Marketing Jody Churich, whose resort received a “B” noted, “Obviously they frown on development. If you’re not developing you have an advantage.”

While she is somewhat pleased with the result of the scorecard, Jody said the report would likely have little impact on consumers. With or without the scorecard, Boreal works to be as environmentally friendly as possible, she said.

“We try and be responsible in all decisions that affect the environment,” she said.

The Ski Area Citizens’ scorecards, along with an explanation and breakdown of grading can be found at

Attempts to contact Squaw Valley and Sugarbowl were unsuccessful.

How Area Resorts Fared

Alpine Meadows 88.3% A

Boreal 74.3% B

Sugar Bowl 59.3% C

Northstar-at-Tahoe 45.3% D

Squaw Valley 44.4% D

*grades computed by Ski Area Citizens Coalition out of a possible 100%

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