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Sierra ski resorts improve environmental ratings

By Jeff DeLong • November 25, 2008

The nation's ski resorts are saving energy and otherwise going increasingly green, improving annual scores for protecting the environment, a conservationist coalition said Monday.

Twelve of 19 ski resorts graded in California showed improvement, with one -- Kirkwood Mountain Resort -- going from an F last year to a B in what one resort operator attributed to better communication with those doing the grading.

The improving trend at many Sierra resorts was largely attributed to expanded efforts to cut energy consumption and install green energy technology, members of the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition said.

"Resorts are walking the talk when it comes to reducing global warming gases," said Patricia Hickson of the Sierra Nevada Alliance, a coalition partner. "We love seeing this green trend."
In the Lake Tahoe area, Alpine Meadows, Boreal Mountain Resort, Homewood Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley USA received A grades. The rest got a B or C, with Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort getting a D.

Since 2000, the coalition has ranked the environmental performance of ski resorts on a numerical basis. Points can be lost for resorts that expand ski runs or build new lifts, snow-making systems or condominiums and added for recycling, supporting renewable energy and expanding mass transit.

The industry has been skeptical of a rating system it says penalizes resorts making improvements on the slopes or base.

"Historically, if you turned a shovel of dirt, you got knocked down," said Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Association. That's the case at Northstar, spokeswoman Jessica Vanpernis said. She said efforts on behalf of the environment, from construction of green buildings to habitat management and mass transit, were far overshadowed in ranking by condominium and hotel construction projects at the resort.