Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Colorado’s ski industry fights climate change

Today, talk about climate change no longer revolves around whether it’s real, but how humans can adapt. Or, in the case of Colorado, how the ski industry can adapt. 

“The skiing industry is at particular risk from higher temperatures. With rising temperatures, snowpack seasons are very likely to shorten,” according to a 2001 report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

But Colorado resorts aren’t waiting for the snow to melt away before doing something about it.

Environmental representatives from some of Colorado’s popular ski resorts came to DU Oct. 16 to discuss their sustainability efforts with 55 students who attended the lecture, which was hosted by Net Impact’s Daniels School of Business chapter. Net Impact raises awareness of socially responsible business practices.

The ski industry isn’t new to the sustainability movement. In 2000, ski areas across the country signed onto an environmental charter dubbed Sustainable Slopes, which called for reducing resort emissions, increasing energy efficiency and investing in newer, more efficient technologies.

Since then, many in the ski industry have been continually improving their efforts, the environmental managers at Winter Park, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin reported.

Alan Henceroth described how A-Basin constructed its new Montezuma Bowl with minimal-impact operations. Instead of creating a road to bring in equipment for the new ski lift, Henceroth said they used a low-impact spider hoe and a helicopter.

Doug Laraby said Winter Park updated its master plan, eliminating some planned developments and a road, concentrating instead on reducing impacts of 10 new proposed projects. 

Keystone Environmental Manager David November explained how Vail Resorts offsets energy consumption at Keystone and other resorts by purchasing wind credits. While turbines on site would impact the view shed, wind credits purchased from operations elsewhere allow the resort to give something back.

Geraldine Link, director of public policy at the National Ski Areas Association moderated the discussion and provided information about Colorado’s 28 ski resorts and more than 300 others across the nation. Link said more than 80 percent of ski areas in the U.S. already make snow.

“It’s expensive,” Link said. “It takes water and energy.”

How Colorado’s ski industry will fare if climate change forces increased snowmaking is uncertain.

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