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Ski resorts boost enviro scores

Nicole Frey
Preston Utley/putley@vaildaily.com
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EAGLE COUNTY – Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts may not be in the top-ranking most environmentally responsible resorts in the Western United States, but their scores continue to climb every year. According to the Ski Area Environmental Score Card, Vail received 43 percent and a D grade last ski season, while Beaver Creek did slightly better with 47.8 percent. The tables turned this year with Vail moving up to a C grade, earning 53.9 percent. Beaver Creek improved less dramatically earning 49 percent and staying within the D range. The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition – made up of environmental nonprofits Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance – graded ski resorts in the western half of the United States by looking at resorts’ environmental policies and practices. Reviewing current environmental practices – as opposed to the resort’s entire history – the coalition scrutinized resorts’ land expansions, protection of sensitive areas, like wetlands or old growth forests, minimizing pollution and other factors. The hope is that people will visit resorts with good environmental records, though environmentalists realize skiers aren’t going to magically stop going to Breckenridge – the lowest scoring resort. “We also understand that skiing has significant, growing and generally unacknowledged impacts,” the report said. Surveys and other studies have said skiers and snowboarders are more environmentally inclined than the average Joe, but the ski industry is a bad source for frank information about resorts’ environmental policies, the report said. “The ski industry obviously needs to be a good land steward,” the report said. “The scorecard will hold them accountable to preserve the mountain environments that draw skiers in the first place.”Vail and Beaver Creek resorts haven’t participated in the coalition’s survey and don’t much care about the scores.”We’ve never commented on the environmental score cards,” said Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen, adding he believes the coalition is biased because of its involvement opposing the Blue Sky expansion. “We didn’t comment when we got Fs and we’re going to continue not to comment.”Expansion shaves off points Beaver Creek got hit hard, earning none of 30 possible points for requesting zoning for 1,300 acres of more terrain at McCoy Park and Mud Springs, building dozens of acres in access roads and other chairlift expansions. Both Vail and Beaver Creek also lost points for proposing or constructing real estate. Although Vail’s Category III/Blue Sky Basin expansion opened in 2000, the resort is still losing points for leftover tree cleaning, stump grinding, rock crushing and boulder grinding operations in the area. The report said Vail’s Chair 10 and 14 upgrades and West Lionshead lift approval could hurt a slew of animals, including American marten, northern goshawks, Boreal owls, three-toed woodpeckers, olive-sided flycatchers, Townsend’s big-eared bats and pygmy shrews. The resort’s score also suffered for cutting nearly 5 acres of old-growth forests for the lifts and also lost points for building a road on wetlands, which the resort eventually had to pay fines for and rehabilitate. Vail and Beaver Creek aren’t hitting perfect scores – none of the resorts are – but there were several areas where the area resorts earned full marks. Beaver Creek successfully avoided building roads on undisturbed land and preserved the area’s water quality. The resort also maintained its free parking lots and offering free shuttle service to the mountain.

Vail can’t claim to offer free parking, but received points for keeping parking lot construction on already disturbed land and subsidizing county and town of Vail bus services. While Vail and Beaver Creek lost points for failing to support past legislation to protect roadless areas, they gained it back by buying enough wind power to offset 100 percent of the resorts’ energy uses and signing a letter supporting the Climate Stewardship Act in Congress. ===============================The best and the worst in the WestTake a look at the top and bottom 20 resorts in the western half of the country. Like those classes in college no one could ace, the grades are curved, meaning 75.9 percent earned Aspen Highlands an A on the scorecard and 45 percent got A-Basin a solid D. ResortStateGrade Score (in percents)Aspen Colo.A92.8ButtermilkColo. A92.8Alpine MeadowsCalif. A80.2Sundance UtahA78.8Aspen HighlandsColo. A75.9Mount BachelorOre.A75.7Sierra-at-TahoeCalif. A74.3Wolf CreekColo.A72.2Bogus BasinIdahoA71.6AltaUtahA71.4

A-BasinColo. D45.0Crystal MountainWash. D45.0Big SkyMont.D44.8Bridger BowlMont.D40.5Silver MountainIdahoF39.2Winter ParkColo. F38.3Crested ButteColo.F37.4White PassWash. F37.4Kirkwood MountainCalif.F36.5Copper MountainColo.F35.1Breckenridge Colo. F35.0Visit http://www.skiareacitizens.com for more information. ==============================================================



The criteria for grading resorts• Not expanding ski terrain. (30 points)• Preserving undisturbed land from development, (31 points)• Protecting or maintaining species that are threatened, endangered, sensitive and their habitat. (22 points)• Preserving Environmentally Sensitive Areas, including wetlands, old growth, unique geological formations and roadless areas. (30 points)• Conserving water and energy by avoiding new snowmaking. (20 points)• Protecting water quality. (12 points)• Opposing/supporting environmentally sound policy positions (10 points)• Promoting and implementing renewable energy, recycling and water and energy conservation strategies. (41 points)• Minimizing traffic, energy use, emissions and pollution (26 points)Total Possible = 222 points===============================Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO


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