When you’re skiing past snow-dusted evergreens, drinking in the crisp, clean air and enjoying the sprawling Rocky Mountain scenery, it’s easy to overlook the mass of resources spent in the process of operating a popular ski destination. Ski lifts, elaborate lighting fixtures, snow grooming, and vehicle traffic: all of these (and more) cost power and produce pollution. To reduce their toll on the environment, many Colorado ski resorts are exploring sustainable solutions to traditionally wasteful practices.
For Colorado’s ski destinations, going green is a vital step toward preserving the beauty that renders the state’s peaks and slopes a mecca for skiers and nature lovers alike. One example of proactive sustainability comes from Telluride, a skier’s hamlet nestled under the crags of the San Juan Mountains. The resort is noted for its efforts to safeguard the environment: it has created conservation easements–government agreements which restrict development–on over one hundred acres of land, and has carried out restoration projects on another 40 acres. Watershed protection measures are also an objective for Telluride; they are working on a complete hydrologic assessment to map local waterways and ensure that the resort’s activities don’t harm water quality.
In addition, the resort has installed a gondola that eliminates the eight mile drive between the town and resort for around two million people every year. Telluride is also working to slash energy wastage by using more efficient snowmakers, and incorporating solar and wind power into its golf course and lift system. For their dedication, the Telluride resort has been recognized by numerous environmental groups; they’ve received awards including the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence, and the Regional Forester’s Caring for the Land Stewardship Award.
Another popular destination, Vail Resorts, has set its goal to maximum: a zero environmental footprint by the year 2030. Inspired by the efforts of organizations like Whistler Blackcomb and the Aspen Skiing Company–which have been taking the initiative to reduce their operating impact for decades–Vail has invested $25 million in sustainable solutions including energy-saving snowmaking machinery, green architecture and revamped snow grooming practices. The site also aims to encourage local businesses to source sustainably, and develop new initiatives for recycling and composting.
In terms of sustainable energy practices, few locations have done more than Wolf Creek Ski Area: America’s first ever fully solar-powered ski resort. Powered by a 25-acre solar farm built in November of 2017, Wolf Creek was fueled entirely by the sun throughout the entire 2017-18 winter season.
The passion that resort operators have for maintaining nature’s majesty is matched by visitors, according to a report by Sustainable Travel International, which estimates that around 105 million US travelers take green initiatives into account when choosing where to travel. Such enthusiasm is a strong sign, as dedication from both tourists and resort managers is needed to guarantee the success of sustainability efforts among the Colorado slopes.