Skiers not picking resorts for enviro-friendliness | SierraSun.com

Skiers not picking resorts for enviro-friendliness

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun

Environmental groups and other organizations push to make sure ski resorts are doing their part for the environment, but skiers and snowboarders say other concerns top their lists when looking to buy season passes.

“I don’t pick my ski area based on whether it is environmentally friendly,” said Tahoe Pines resident Nancy Spina. “I live near Homewood and Homewood is family-friendly. We have two 11-year-olds who love Homewood and I go to Homewood because it is not commercialized.”

Carnelian Bay resident Julie Bernyk, who skis at Squaw Valley USA, said it is all about the terrain when she is looking for a place to ski, but adds that she does her part for the environment in other areas of her life, like recycling, buying energy-saving light bulbs and buying organic food.

Visitors who call the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce visitor’s center ask which ski resorts are open, what the terrain is like, how much lift tickets are and what is the best resort, said Kym Fabel, program manager for the chamber. She said callers never ask which resorts are stewards of the environment.

“I still think it’s all about the terrain,” Fabel said. “But I believe they feel better about going to ski resorts that are environmentally friendly.”

Ski resorts also say they don’t hear from their customers that the environment is the number one concern for them when it comes to their mountain.

“We don’t get anything about the environment. We hear about why isn’t Broken Arrow [lift] running,” said Savannah Cowley, spokesperson for Squaw Valley Ski Corp. “People would rather have redundant lifts running than hike. They don’t like the green excuse or that we are conserving energy. It is the opposite, if anything.”

Mount Rose resident Taylor Eslick, who snowboards at Alpine Meadows, said ski resorts should educate their customers about the environment. Autumn Bernstein agreed. Bernstein, the land use coordinator for the Sierra Nevada Alliance, said that if skiers and boarders are concerned about the environment, they should contact their ski resort.

“People who are environmentally friendly don’t have to stop skiing at their resort, they just have to ask their resort to be more environmentally friendly,” Bernstein said. “Ski resorts do listen.”

The Ski Area Citizens Coalition released its annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard Tuesday, with Tahoe ski resorts running the ranking gamut from an A to F.

“We hope skiers and snowboarders will utilize this information when choosing where to spend their lift ticket dollars,” Autumn Bernstein, land use coordinator of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, said in a news release. “Perhaps even more importantly, if someone’s favorite resort ranks poorly in the scorecard, we hope that they will ask them to clean up their act.”

Each year, 77 ski resorts throughout the western United States are graded on their environmental policies and practices.

The coalition grades resorts on nine categories of criteria based on development and proactive steps the resorts are taking to help the environment, according to Ben Doon, research director for the Ski Area Citizens Coalition in Colorado. When looking at a resort’s development, the coalition determines if the building impacts old growth, if it impacts roadless area, has negative impacts on species habitat, whether they are building new roads and if they are proposing new snow making.

“It’s not so much development, but where they are doing it and how it’s being done,” Doon said.

The other area of criteria includes whether ski resorts are instituting green programs that include recycling, sponsoring bus programs, use of bio fuels, if they buy wind energy, if they purchase recycled products and if they offer incentives to their customers for being environmentally conscious.

This is how Tahoe resorts ranked this year:

Alpine Meadows A

Boreal Mountain B

Heavenly C

Homewood B

Kirkwood F

Mt. Rose C

Northstar-At-Tahoe D

Sierra-At-Tahoe A

Squaw Valley USA B

Sugar Bowl C

For more information on the scorecard, visit http://www.skiareacitizens.com

Do you consider how environmentally friendly ski resorts are when choosing where you ski or snowboard?

“It’s something I definitely think about. It might be something if I was taking a vacation that would be in my consideration.”

” Ben Van Steinburgh, Tahoe City, skis at Squaw

“If we had three mountains and they were equal in terrain and price and were all the same distance from my house, then it would be a consideration. It is maybe the fifth thing on the list, but it’s never the first thing on the list.”

” Kelly Mackey, Lake Forest, snowboards at Squaw and Alpine

“I’m environmentally conscious, but I’m not sure I would stop going to a ski resort because they had a bad [environmental] scorecard.”

” Todd Barber, Carnelian Bay, snowboards and skis at Sugar Bowl and Squaw

“It makes me feel better if my resort is environmentally friendly. I think resorts should look at alternative ways of powering their lifts and snowcats. If they find alternative sources of energy maybe they could lower their ticket prices.”

” Eric Zerrenner, Carnelian Bay, snowboards and skis at Sugar Bowl and Alpine

“I backcountry ski and don’t resort ski very much. It’s a concern of mine, but definitely it’s not a concern of most people.”

” Mark Underwood, Dollar Hill, backcountry skier