Earth Matters: “Green” Ski Resort

Earth Matters: “Green” Ski Resort

Go GreenIn 1896, Nobel Laureate chemist Svante Arrhenius theorized that carbon dioxide (CO2) derived from fossil fuel combustion induced atmospheric warming. 64 years later Dr. Charles David Keeling proved that the concentration of CO2, a greenhouse gas (GHG), was increasing in the atmosphere. As a consequence of human activities, the Earth’s climate is changing.

Ever more often, drought and warmer average monthly temperatures due to global warming have caused snowpack decline. In Colorado, the snowpack in the Rio Grande, Dolores, Animas, San Miguel and San Juan basins sat just above 40 percent of average this year. According to Greg Pederson, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, the warmer temperatures have negated any substantial precipitation events. As Pederson explains, “Lots of regions remain cold enough to snow, but after the storm passes, we’re getting much warmer air. So you get three feet dumped, and then it gets reduced to six inches.” This process prohibits the snowpack from accumulating or persisting as long.

In response to foreseeable long-term declines in annual snowpack, a building coalition of ski resorts have banded together to address climate change and the future of skiing. As of May 2013, 108 ski resorts from 24 states in the U.S. have joined the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy (BICEP) campaign organized by Ceres, a leading advocate for sustainability leadership. The mission of the BICEP campaign involves calling upon federal policymakers to capitalize on the economic opportunities created by addressing climate change. In addition, The Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore, has established the “I AM PRO SNOW” campaign. The goal of this exciting new campaign involves uniting people who love and depend on snow for recreation, for business, and for their quality of life.

Since 1997, the Aspen Ski Company has been implementing eco initiatives and was the first ski resort operator to offset 100 percent of its electricity. According to Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for the Aspen Ski Company, the ski company has worked closely with the local community to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation actions designed to generate public awareness, reduce energy use, and conserve water. In 2012, Aspen Ski Company developed partnerships with Holy Cross Energy, Vessels Coal Gas, the Oxbow Elk Creek Mine, and Gunnison Energy to develop renewable energy sources for the resort and local community. These partnerships prompted Aspen Ski Company to invest $5.5 million in a plant that converts the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, into electricity at the Elk Creek Coal Mine in nearby Somerset, CO.

As a reward for these efforts, Aspen Ski Company has achieved a positive return on their eco investments and won numerous awards from organizations ranging from the U.S. Green Building Council to the National Resources Defense Council. They were also the first ski resort to be ISO certified as a”green” company and named the #1 “green” ski resort in the U.S. by TreeHugger, an environmental advocacy publication.

Hopefully, ski resorts worldwide will be inspired by Aspen Ski Company’s success and take action.

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