Sierra resorts graded on environmental performance | SierraSun.com

Sierra resorts graded on environmental performance

Christina Nelson

Truckee area ski resorts aren’t too worried about the results of an environmental report card issued by the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition.

Although California and Nevada resorts were ranked highest on the environmental scorecard, some area resorts received less than stellar grades.

Western ski resorts were ranked according to a point system devised by the environmental group, which penalizes development on a resort’s property.

Most area resorts received “B” or “C” grades, but others received lower grades.

Northstar-at-Tahoe received the only “F” grade in the California-Nevada region.

Northstar spokesperson Toby Baird said the resort got a bad grade because some environmental groups “view any enhancement or any alteration to terrain as a negative.”

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The resort recently expanded its snowmaking coverage and has future development – a village and workforce housing – in the works.

Baird said he believes the report won’t hurt business because the resort has a reputation for being committed to the environment – winning a state recycling award and a National Ski Areas Association award for its Sustainable Slopes Day.

Other resorts agreed that the rankings aren’t representative of their operations.

“As far as our grade goes… they never came to Sugar Bowl to see what we do,” said Bill Hudson, spokesman for Sugar Bowl, which recently received a grant for its recycling program.

Hudson said resort officials didn’t fill out a survey administered by the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition because they felt the group is “not interested in the information we give them.”

Northstar also refused to fill out the group’s survey.

Squaw Valley received a “D” and said they had not heard of the report or seen its grade.

Spokeswoman Rachael Woods of Alpine Meadows – which received an “A” – said the resort is thankful for being recognized for their environmental programs that have been in existence since it opened in 1961.

But she also expressed some skepticism regarding the report.

“I do find it disturbing that ski areas are put under a microscope like this,” Woods said. “There are so many industries that I would like to see through a microscope. I would like to see a bit of a level playing field as far as all industry goes.”

Homewood officials said they did not participate in the survey either, but said they are extremely careful when it comes to the environment because of the resort’s proximity to Lake Tahoe.

“Whenever we work on any project that may be sensitive we work with all agencies … to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the process, and that all considerations are being made to protect the lake and our environment,” said spokesman Collier Cook.

Joan Clayburgh, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, one group involved in the scorecard, said the grades can be subjective.

“But whether or not [a ski resort has] done that activity, that’s objective,” she said.

Clayburgh, who is also a skier, said the best part about the scorecard is that skiers don’t have to take a resort’s grade at face value. A customer can look up the breakdown of the score and decide what’s most important.

If a customer feels recycling is important (recycling isn’t weighted as much as development), then the customer can check the Web site to see if the resort has a recycling program.

“You can add up your own scorecard any way you want to,” Clayburgh said.

Clayburgh said a committee comprised of representative from different organizations chose the criteria by which the resorts were graded.

Information for the scorecard was obtained from government agencies and the resorts themselves. Public records requests were filed with appropriate land managers to identify ski area development projects and management plans. Resorts were also supplied with surveys.

All resort grades, a breakdown of the point system and source documents are located on the group’s Web site, http://www.skiareacitizens.com.