(ORDA 2010-11 audited financial statements), or $1 out of every $6 the ski areas take in.
Skier transportation to/from ski areas also consumes significant energy. For our family, day trips to Gore represent a 100 mile round-trip. We travel in a relatively fuel efficient small SUV (25 mpg), consuming approximately 4 gallons of gas per round-trip commute to the ski mountain at a cost of roughly $16, or $4 per skier visit (based on $4/gallon gas and 4 skiers in our car). Obviously skiers who commute to the mountain singly, or in less fuel efficient cars, or who travel greater distances may have larger transportation costs. The energy cost of air travel is off the chart.
Although energy use arguably contributes the largest impact to the environment, there are other impacts from skiing to consider as well, including habitat disruption and fragmentation, water quality and visual impacts.
(NSAA) adopted its Sustainable Slopes Environmental Charter to raise the collective environmental performance of the ski industry. Ski areas which endorse the charter – including Gore and Whiteface – use it as a framework for making improvements in their own operations. The NSAA has also adopted a climate change policy and launched a “Keep Winter Cool” campaign with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Sustainable Slopes charter includes 21 principles which address areas such as water quality, energy use, waste reduction and recycling, forest and wetlands management, fish and wildlife management, etc. The principles are voluntary, and ski areas undertake initiatives that make the most sense and provide the greatest impact for their individual operations.
ORDA’s Jon Lundin spoke with me about some of the projects and initiatives that have been undertaken at Gore and Whiteface over the past several years:
- Both areas purchase energy from renewable sources. At Gore, roughly 7% is certified renewable.
- Both areas have implemented single stream (aka zero sort) recycling.
- Numerous energy efficiency projects, including the purchase of 160 low energy snowmaking guns at Gore last year. These guns are the “compact fluorescent lights” of snowmaking, using only 20-25% of the energy of the guns they replace. The new guns at Gore result in an energy savings of approximately $150,000 annually. At Whiteface, various compressor and snowmaking gun upgrades over the past three years have resulted in a 13% reduction in electricity consumption, an annual savings of 2 million kwh.
- Lighting efficiency upgrades.
- Building re-use and earth tone color schemes to reduce visual impact.
- Educational initiatives such as the Northwoods Knowledge signage in Gore’s gondola cabins.
Lundin states “Obviously we work very closely with DEC and APA on environmental compliance. It’s our goal to exceed regulatory compliance in our operations.”
Many skiers place a high priority on environmental concerns, and actions by individual skiers can collectively have a huge positive impact. Here are some specific actions you can take as an environmentally responsible skier:
On the slopes and traveling to the slopes:
- Practice Leave-No-Trace principles
- Drive a fuel efficient vehicle
- Carpool to the ski mountain
- Ski locally, avoid air travel
- Remove ski racks from your vehicle at the end of the ski season to improve fuel efficiency
Off the slopes:
- Purchase the least polluting, most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs
- Purchase energy efficient home appliances
- Use LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Improve your home’s energy efficiency
- Carpool, walk, or use public transportation when possible
- Consider purchasing electricity for your home from renewable sources
- Consider purchasing carbon offsets
- Practice the three Rs to produce less waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle