Vail improves on enviro score card |

Vail improves on enviro score card

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

VAIL ” Vail isn’t the most environmentally friendly ski resort around, but it’s gradually improving, according to a report from the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition.

The coalition is a group made of environmental nonprofits such as Colorado Wild, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance. The group examines the environmental impact of 77 ski resorts in the Western United States and gives them a grade.

Vail improved its grade on its environmental scorecard by a small margin this year.

Vail scored 53.9 percent and a C grade last year and improved to 55.6 and a C this year. In past years, Vail has scored as low as D and F. Beaver Creek scored 48.8 percent and a D, same as last year.

The coalition scrutinizes things like how much new terrain a resort opens, how sensitive they are to wildlife and what steps they take to minimize pollution. The report examines how ski resorts conserve water and reduce energy use, protect water quality and protect sensitive areas like wetlands.

Some people though question the reliability of the report. Geraldine Link, the director of public policy for the National Ski Areas Association, said the environmental score card is flawed, simplistic and focuses on the wrong things.

The point system used by the report gives biggest weight to ski resort development, meaning ski resorts that are adding terrain and lifts have their grades lowered because of potential damage to wildlife and forests. This doesn’t make sense when ski resorts are seeing record numbers of visitors and are expected to grow, Link said.

“If you’re a growing ski area and you want to expand or improve in anyway, or add snowmaking, you are going to lose significant points,” Link said. “It’s naive to expect a ski area not to grow.”

Meanwhile, resorts that do things like support public transportation, develop green building policies, participate in extensive recycling programs, or in Vail’s case, choose to offset its energy use with wind power credits, don’t gain as many points, Link said.

Both Vail and Beaver Creek’s reports look much like they did last year, with the same sorts of things taking down their scores.

Blue Sky Basin may have opened in 2000, but Vail is still losing points on the scorecard because of the resort has finished clearing away trees, stumps, rocks and other cleanup work.

Vail lost points from its Chair 10 and Chair 14 upgrades in 2005, which the report says could harm a large group of animals, including American marten, Northern goshawk, Boreal owl, Three-toed woodpecker, Olive-sided flycatcher and Pygmy schrew. An improved West Lionshead could have a similar impact, the report says.

The resort’s score also took a hit for cutting nearly five acres of old 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.

Beaver Creek lost points for requesting zoning for 1,300 acres of terrain at McCoy Park and Mud Springs, building dozens of acres in access roads and other chairlift expansions.

Vail and Beaver Creek are doing well in some areas, says the report.

Vail Resorts is offsetting 100 percent of its energy with wind energy credits for its five mountain resorts, which the coalition says is a good thing. Vail also plans to work toward LEED certification for buildings involved in the West Lionshead Redevelopment project.

Vail got points for subsidizing county and town bus service and promoting carpooling.

However, the areas Vail did well in don’t account for many points on the score card.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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