Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Slippery Slope of Green Skiing

Is skiing environmentally damaging?

Skiing is a large, carbon-intensive industry that requires a lot of space, a lot of equipment, and a lot of energy, so it has the potential to be very environmentally disruptive. Resorts that use a lot of snow machines consume large amounts of energy and water. Due to global climate change, chemicals called snow inducers are increasingly used to help freeze snow at lower temperatures. In a way, it’s a vicious cycle: emissions from snow machines fuel global warming, which means higher temperatures and increased need for snow machines. Despite low growth in the total number of skiers, the total acreage of resorts has greatly increased, meaning more deforestation and more energy-sucking ski lifts.

But like any industry, ski resorts are realizing that consumers are demanding a more environmentally friendly experience, and that their industry depends on stopping global warming. Some resorts are investing in green technology, renewable energy, and are committed to limiting devegetation and water depletion.

Luckily, we don’t have to spend hours investigating our favorite ski spots. Ski Area Citizens Commission, an organization dedicated to monitoring the eco-frienliness of the ski industry, gives resorts across the country a letter grade on greenness, factoring in criteria such as habitat protection, energy conservation, and water management. For example, Squaw Valley gets an A, while Heavenly has a C overall, and an F in protecting watersheds.

To see how your favorite spot ranks, visit http://www.skiareacitizens.com/index.php?
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Have a good Thanksgiving and stay green!
-Dr. Green

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