Ski resorts blast environmental scorecard as anti-growth
December 5, 2007
South Lake Tahoe – Ski resorts near here are criticizing the results of an annual environmental scorecard released by conservationists.
The Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC), comprising Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance, gave Kirkwood Mountain Resort an “F” grade for the second straight year.
Heavenly Mountain Resort remained at a “C” for the year, and Sierra-at-Tahoe dropped from an “A” to a “B” since last year.
Kirkwood Chief Executive Officer David Likins excoriated the report, saying, “There is a very strong bias against growth.”
He and other local operators contend the SACC punishes resorts that attempt to improve and remain competitive.
Kirkwood recently took steps to cut energy consumption by reducing lighting, promoting carpooling, reducing landfill waste and conserving water, Likins said.
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But he said those efforts receive little attention in the scorecard ranking, largely because the resort is expanding lifts and snowmaking and is building condominiums.
“Kirkwood has done an exceptional job at taking steps toward addressing environmental concerns,” Likins said. “The question is, ‘Is the resort taking steps to preserve the environment?’ And the answer for Kirkwood is a resounding yes.”
The coalition ranks resorts on a numerical basis. Points can be lost for resorts that expand ski runs or build new lifts, snowmaking systems or condominiums. Points can be added for resorts that recycle, support renewable energy and expand mass transit.
Sierra lost points for its plans to include 322 acres of an area known as Huckleberry Canyon into its patrolled boundary this season. The terrain previously has been accessible through backcountry gates. Officials at the U.S. Forest Service have yet to approve the possible change.
“Booth Creek does not support the SACC report card,” said Kirstin Cattell, spokeswoman for Booth Creek, which owns Sierra-at-Tahoe and Northstar-at-Tahoe. “We feel it is biased against any resort development.”
At the other end of the spectrum, a Sierra ski resort raided seven years ago by armed federal agents investigating environmental abuses earned top honors in the SACC scorecard.
Squaw Valley USA’s “A” grade in the ranking is part of a trend of improvement, members of the group said.
Squaw’s score is largely because it has reduced energy consumption by using energy-efficient snow guns, using biodiesel in vehicles and retrofitting old buildings, the coalition said.
It’s a turnaround from 2000, when agents with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raided the resorts during an investigation into alleged violations from construction that polluted a tributary of the Truckee River.
In 2005, Squaw Valley Ski Corp. agreed to pay California $900,000 to settle a lawsuit filed in connection with the dispute.
“Squaw is a great example of a resort that has not only stopped the bad things they used to do, but is also taking on some more proactive programs,” said Autumn Bernstein of the Sierra Nevada Alliance.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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