Ski area enviro scorecard updated |

Ski area enviro scorecard updated

Bob Berwyn

A coalition of environmental groups has released its updated version of the environmental scorecard for ski areas, and once again, local resorts rank near the bottom of the list.Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Beaver Creek and Vail all received failing grades, while Keystone, A-Basin and Beaver Creek earned Ds.By region, resorts in California and Nevada scored the highest grades, with an overall B average, while Colorado and New Mexico resorts earned an average C grade. According to the scorecard, resorts in the northern Rockies ranked lowest, averaging a low C.Several Colorado resorts also earned As, including the Aspen-area resorts, Wolf Creek and Eldora. The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition touts the scorecard as a tool for skiers, giving them a way to choose destinations that live up to environmentally sound and sustainable policies.But ski industry officials have ripped the scorecard each year, claiming that the coalition is biased and that the scores don’t reflect the progress that’s been made on the environmental front.The National Ski Areas Association has developed its own internal Sustainable Slopes Charter, which also outlines a set of environmental principles. But that voluntary effort, according to critics, lacks enforcement mechanisms and doesn’t address what conservation groups see as the industry’s biggest weakness namely the expansion trend that environmentalists claim is eating away at precious natural resources, including wetlands, old growth forests and valuable wildlife habitat.Illnesses cause school closingsGrand County’s Sky Hi-News reports that the East Grand County School District cancelled classes the day before the start of Thanksgiving break due to a high absentee rate caused by illnesses.About 25 percent of the students in the district were missing from class during the first few days of Thanksgiving week, district officials said, explaining that, at the same time last year, the absentee rate was about 7 percent. School district officials said they hoped a five-day break would give students a chance to recuperate.Plentiful powder at Targhee openerLast year, it was Colorado’s turn, and this year, Grand Targhee, the Wyoming powder haven, opened big, reporting a 40-inch base and plenty of freshies for everyone, according to the Jackson Hole News and Guide.The News and Guide reports that conditions received rave reviews all around as skiers and boarders skied through an opening day snowstorm that dropped several additional inches atop an already substantial base. By Saturday, Nov. 29, another foot of fresh was on the ground.Good conditions also boosted business at the resort, with occupancy rates 30 percent higher than opening weekend last season, according to the News and Guide. Resort officials reported more than 3,500 skiers during the first three days of the season, calling it the strongest opening day in a decade.Reservations up in Crested ButteAccording to the Crested Butte News, reservations for the coming holiday are up from last year, both at local lodging facilities and with airlines serving the area. But at this point, officials are hesitant to predict how the rest of the winter might go.Some agents specializing in travel packages say their numbers are more than 40 percent higher than last year, the News reports. Increased airline bookings can be at least partially attributed to a newly formed Rural Transportation Authority that has been marketing the area. Some lodges in the area, including the slopeside Sheraton Crested Butte, are sold out for the peak holiday season. Officials are also encouraged by long-term booking trends, which are promising for the month of February.New AK resort eyedThe Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that a &quotwell-known&quot developer has shown interest in building a new resort on the south side of Government Peak, near Hatcher Pass.Local government authorities have been touting the development opportunities, even taking out an ad in the Wall Street Journal, but so far, JL Properties Inc. has submitted the only letter of interest. Local officials believe they could start with a small regional ski hill and then see what the market might support.Ultimately, the resort could encompass 14,000 acres and include a range of outdoor activities like alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling and hiking and climbing. Similar plans have been the works previously, as local authorities eye a recreation-based economy. But the project has never moved beyond the planning phase, according to the Daily News-Miner.Montana ripe for avalanchesThe Billings Gazette reports that this year’s early snow could lead to dangerous avalanche conditions later in the season. Temperatures in parts of the Northern Rockies plunged to record lows in October, and the first snows of the season were light and powdery.Backcountry skiers in the region are reporting an unconsolidated base of three to four feet, conditions that could persist well into the season, providing only a tenuous base for future storms. Avalanche forecasters say the weak foundation could stay hidden for months, finally showing a deadly side as late as April or May.Potential Canadian resort studiedA Canadian developer is preparing a final project report for a proposed new $450 (CDN) million resort deep in the Purcell Mountains, the Vancouver Province reports.Government planners in the area say they are already dealing with a steady stream of public comments on the proposal. According to the Province, the Jumbo Glacier Resort would offer skiing on the Jumbo, Commander and Farnham glaciers. The developer envisions a resort village with up to 5,500 beds in condos, chalets and hotels.Critics say the proposed location is too deep in the backcountry, and could impact grizzly bear populations across a wide swath of the Purcells, and some local officials say they are convinced most residents don’t want the resort.Scotland resort closure spurs actionThe Glasgow Scotsman reports that there may be skiing after all this season at the Glencoe resort, after the ski area announced earlier it would have to shut its doors due to financial difficulties.A group of people led by one of the area’s volunteer ski patrollers is bidding to run the resort at least on weekends this winter, according to the Scotsman. The bid is backed by the Glenshee Chairlift Company, which bought Glencoe eight years ago. Officials with the company said that lack of snowfall in recent winters has “put the operations under great pressure,” according to the Scotsman.Mammoth officially fires up new gondolaSkiers and snowboarders will have direct access to Mammoth Mountain from the Mammoth Lakes following the official ribbon-cutting of a new 15-passenger gondola in the California resort town.The town-to-mountain link was envisioned by Mammoth founder Dave McCoy 40 years ago and will help reduce traffic on the access road to the Main Lodge. The lower terminal is in a new base area developed by Intrawest.Mammoth Mountain is 70 percent open, with a three- to four-foot base covering about 2,500 acres of terrain.

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