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Ski areas gain on an annual environmental report card

Adam Jensen
Nevada Appeal News Service

The nation’s economic woes may have helped western ski resorts improve on an environmental report card compiled by a coalition of conservation groups each year.

The average environmental score for 82 ski resorts in the west increased two percent compared to 2009, according to the 2010 Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition report card.

California resorts improved their scores by an average of 1.8 percent compared to last ski season and 6.6 percent over the 2008-2009 season.

Squaw Valley USA and Alpine Meadows topped the report card’s evaluation of California resorts, while Northstar-at-Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain Resort landed at the bottom of the coalition’s rankings for Lake Tahoe area resorts.

This is the 10th year the coalition has released a report card, which evaluates environmental policies and practices based on 35 criteria. The coalition is composed of 24 conservation groups throughout the west.

The improved scores seen through western ski resorts resulted from resorts investing in water and energy efficiency projects and not moving forward with terrain expansions, according to the coalition.

A struggling economy likely deterred resorts from pursuing such expansions.

The number of resorts implementing water and energy efficiency projects has steadily increased since 2005-2006, while the number of ski resorts proposing or implementing terrain expansions has dropped precipitously since the 2008-2009.

“California resorts improved for the 4th year in a row,” said Richard McIntyre, Sierra Nevada Alliance Campaigns Director, in a statement. “But we’re concerned the environmental trend may be a matter of economic convenience rather than a long-term commitment to resource preservation. Californians well remember the days of bull dozing streams and serving eviction notices to wildlife to add a new ski-run, and trust they are a thing of the past.”

The report card has been criticized by some members of the ski industry.

Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga said Heavenly does not participate in the group’s annual survey because the company finds it non-scientific and biased against the ski industry.

The resort lost points on the score card primarily for the development of new ski trails and snowmaking expansions included under its master plan.

“We stand on a very firm position of being highly sensitive to and respectful of the environment at Lake Tahoe,” Ladyga wrote in an e-mail. “Our track record of well-recognized environmentally focused projects, including our new on-mountain lodge, which has been designed and constructed consistent with the LEED system in order to receive certification, is a testament to our commitment to improving the overall environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin.”

The full report card can be found at: http://www.skiareacitizens.com

How Lake Tahoe area ski resorts did on this year’s ski area report card:

Squaw Valley USA – 90.30%

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort – 86.20%

Sugar Bowl Resort – 80%

Boreal Mountain Resort – 78.70%

Kirkwood Mountain Resort – 77.50%

Homewood Mountain Resort – 77.40%

Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort – 73.70%

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe – 70.7%

Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort – 66.50%

Heavenly Mountain Resort – 59.70%