Monday, January 19, 2009

Taking Sustainable Slopes to the Next Level

Judy Dorsey, founder of The Brendle Group, led a session at the NSAA Winter Conference and Trade Snow (Mount Snow, Vermont, Jan. 13-14) about options for improving sustainability in resort operations based on NSAA’s newly released guide "Taking Sustainable Slopes to the Next Level". During the session she focused on the continued greening of the ski industry through expansion of use of renewable energy, efficiencies in energy consumption, capturing and reusing waste heat, use of alternative fuels, recycling, and other environmentally friendly programs.

(Report by Roger Leo as published in the Mountain News)
"Ski resorts find themselves at a place of both opportunity and challenge where economic uncertainty, rising and fluctuating energy costs, concerns about climate change, and efforts to live more sustainably have moved to the forefront of public debate", Dorsey said. "While few industries are as vulnerable to climate change as the ski industry, resorts have already become a leading voice in battling climate change and other environmental issues and have the opportunity to reach millions of visitors annually", she said. "As the number of ski areas purchasing renewable energy credits has continued to climb, so has the number of resorts offsetting 100 percent of their electricity needs. To date, 68 resorts are now purchasing green energy for their operations through RECs and 34 of these are offsetting 100 percent of their electricity use with the RECs. These 34 resorts are collectively purchasing 343,459,000 kilowatt hours of green energy, resulting in the avoidance of 497,270,000 pounds of carbon dioxide", Dorsey said. "While these efforts are significant and commendable, rising energy costs and the consequences of climate change require continued leadership and bold steps. Most participants in the ski industry already realize that proactive environmental management is ultimately more cost-effective than compliance-based environmental management", she said. "As concerns over climate change grow and the cost of energy increases, resort operators are finding that investments in efficiency and reducing waste are not only good decisions for the environment, they are reaping rewards in terms of reduced operating costs. One of the most compelling reasons for resorts may be the immediate cost savings that result from using less energy, water and materials. By implementing a few relatively simple measures designed to reduce consumption of energy and other resources, resorts can save money on their bottom line that they can then reinvest in other longer-term conservation measures", Dorsey said.
Among the green projects she cited around the country were these: Jiminy Peak’s 1.5 million wind turbine, that can produce 4.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity, more than half the 7 million kilowatt hours Jiminy uses each season; Aspen’s 10.6-kilowat solar array on employee housing and a 150-kilowatt solar array in Carbondale; A 115-kilowatt micro-hydro plant at Snowmass which generates 150,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power 25 homes, while preventing the emission of half a million pounds of carbon dioxide.
She cited voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions at various resorts, including at Grand Targhee, a founding reporter of The Climate Registry; Park City’s commissioning of the industry’s first comprehensive scientific study of global warming’s effect on the snow sports industry, and subsequent decision of reduce its carbon footprint by 3,000 tons – and then achieving a reduction of 4,000 tons; Attainment of carbon neutral status by Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which purchased carbon offset to compensate for nearly 680 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2006.
Judy Dorsey, that has been working with NSAA since 2000 on sustainability, concluded the session saying "economic hard times often create opportunity for change and innovation".