Ski resorts across the West are finding eco-friendly ways to reduce environmental impacts

From clearing trees for ski runs to burning megawatts for lifts and lights, it’s no surprise that ski resorts have a substantial impact upon the environment. And the ski industry is taking note. Many resorts are now implementing eco-friendly initiatives – some more impactful than others – to reduce their effect upon the environment. Here are some of the ways ski areas can insure we’re still stoked for winter in years to come.

Ditch the Dirty Fuels

Warmer winters mean less reliable ski days. Fewer ski days equals less dollar bills. That’s bad news for an industry already dictated by fickle weather. Many ski areas are now adopting clean energy goals. If you didn’t love Wolf Creek enough already, this homegrown ski area converted to 100% solar energy just a few years ago.

renewable energy
In addition to becoming the first solar-powered ski area in 2018, Wolf Creek Ski Area is in its 14th season of using a form of renewable energy year-round for 100% of the mountain. The resort not only purchases renewable energy, it uses biodegradable oils in machinery and has water-free restrooms. The main source of energy for the entire ski area comes from the Penitente Solar Project in the San Luis Valley.Ryan Scavo/courtesy of Wolf Creek Ski Area

Over on the Front Range, Arapahoe Basin plans to be 100% carbon neutral and powered entirely by renewable energy by 2025. On top of that, A-Basin has already implemented several energy efficiency projects and installed two solar arrays. Aspen Snowmass has partnered with local coal mines to capture methane emissions and power the mega resort’s operations. According to the Aspen Skiing Company, this process eliminates three times the carbon pollution created by the resort each year.

solar energy
In March of 2015, Arapahoe Basin completed construction of its brand new Kids Center. Housing kids ski school, along with a first aid clinic and ski patrol locker room, the Kids Center incorporated sustainable building practices throughout its design and construction – from efficient heating and cooling systems, to water-saving fixtures, to reclaimed barn wood and beetlekill pine. Most notably, the south roof features a 13.5 kW solar array, which produces about 15 MW of solar energy per season.Arapahoe Basin
Waste Not

Carbon emissions aren’t the only thing ski resorts can cut back on. Reducing waste – single-use plastic containers, food, water bottles, and the like – is a major step ski areas can take to minimize their environmental impact. Utah’s Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort is now straw free and is in the process of eliminating single-use plastic bags. The resort also has a battery recycling program, an important addition for ski patrollers who burn through batteries. Some ski areas, like A-Basin, are also composting thousands of pounds of food waste during the winter. Last year, A-Basin actually composted 70,000 pounds of food that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

Tackle Traffic (because we’d rather ski than sit in a car)

Anyone who has sat in traffic, inching toward the chairlift can get on board with reducing the number of cars on the road. Implementing ridesharing, shuttles and other shared transit also reduces carbon emissions in our clean mountain air. Snowbird recently launched the R.I.D.E. (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment) app, which facilitates carpooling. Skiers earn points for each rideshare and eventually rack up enough points to receive discounts on lift tickets. Some resorts are also beginning to install EV charging stations. (Now, if there were only more AWD electric vehicles.)

Climate Challenge

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has an ongoing Climate Challenge, which encourages resorts to take tangible steps to reduce their environmental impact. In the 2019 report, the NSAA states that participating resorts cut more than 85,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions last year. While the list of ski areas involved with the Climate Challenge is growing, it’s still only a fraction of the resorts nationwide.