2010-11 Top 10 Greenest Ski Areas
1. Squaw Valley, Calif.
2. Park City, Utah
3. Alpine Meadows, Calif.
4. Aspen Highlands, Colo.
5. Aspen Mountain, Colo.
6. Buttermilk, Colo.
7. Deer Valley, Utah
8. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
9. Sundance, Utah
10. Bogus Basin, Idaho
The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition
released their 2010-11 Ski Area Environmental Report Card this week, which grades Western ski resorts on their green practices. This year, Squaw Valley, Park City and Alpine Meadows made the list of top three best environmental ski areas. Breckenridge, Sun Valley and Arizona Snowbowl earned the three worst scores.
The resorts are graded on four main categories: habitat protection, watershed protection, addressing climate change and environmental practices and polices. Those factors add up to the resort's overall score.
2010-11 Top 10 Least Green Ski Areas
1. Breckenridge, Colo.
2. Sun Valley, Idaho
3. Arizona Snowbowl, Arizona
4. Taos, New Mexico
5. White Pass, Wash.
6. Copper, Colo.
7. Brundage, Idaho
8. Solitude, Utah
9. Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, Nevada
10. Brian Head, Utah
The good news for this year? Of the 82 resorts evaluated, 26 of them received a score of B or better. And overall, ski resorts saw an average improvement of 2 percent in their scores from last year. This is the fourth year in a row that resorts have seen an overall improvement. Some of the most improved resorts are Arapahoe Basin, Crested Butte, Wolf Creek, Crystal Mountain and Mt. Ashland. Taos, New Mexico, is the ski area that saw the most decline in its score from last year -- from a B to a D -- due to new development plans into undisturbed terrain.
Most of the improvement come from resorts investing in water and energy-saving projects and not expanding terrain. Paul Joyce, the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition's research director, says the lack of expansion is likely due to hard economic times.
"Ski areas are not developing as much new terrain in sensitive areas," Joyce said. "Is this due to an environmental commitment? Or when the economy turns will the treads on the bulldozers turn also?"
This is the second year in a row that Squaw Valley has earned the top ranking spot. "We are pleased to again be ranked number one by the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition," says Squaw Valley spokesperson Amelia Richmond. "Environmental consciousness is deeply engrained in Squaw Valley's philosophy and as such, plays a part in everything we do. We know that effective environmental policies are more than buying clean-energy credits and off-setting our environmental impact -- at Squaw Valley, we start by taking care of our own mountain through revegetation programs, water conservation and renewable energy technologies."
The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition, which is made of up various regional conversation groups, has been issuing these report cards for the last 10 years. Data for the scores is acquired through an annual survey, public records from government agencies and from the resorts. "The purpose of the report is to get the resorts to be better stewards for the environment and make them aware of their impact on the landscape," Joyce told ESPN. "The secondary purpose is educate consumers about ski resorts' impact on the land. A lot of people just don't think about that." Joyce added that they don't score Eastern ski resorts because many are on private land and are therefore more difficult to obtain data on.
"The improvement in the scores overall is encouraging, but it's not enough," Joyce says. "We still curve the scores hard to keep everyone from getting Fs. But we're moving in the right direction."