Ski Area Environmental Scorecard Rates Resorts

The first annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard grades ski resorts throughoutthe West on their environmental policies and management. Each ski area hasbeen judged by eleven clearly defined criteria. The printed report card will beavailable in December. Over 50 resorts graded this year are detailed on thewebsite, including full explanations of Scoring criteria, citations, anddocumentation supporting grading decisions.

The Best in the West. The Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition (SACC) encourages theskiing public to patronize these resorts:

Ski Resort State Grade Score Owner
Sundance Resort Utah A 90.5 Robert Redford
Timberline Ski Area OR A 87.8 RLK and Company
49 Degrees North Mountain Resort WA A 84.7 John Eminger
Aspen Highlands Ski Resort CO A 83.6 Aspen Skiing Company
Sun Valley Resort Idaho A 83.1 Earl Holding
Wolf Creek Ski Area CO A 78.8 Kingsbury Pitcher
Silver Mountain Ski Resort Idaho A 77.8 EagleCrest
Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort CO A 77.2 Aspen Skiing Company
Aspen Mountain Ski Resort CO B 74.6 Aspen Skiing Company
Snowmass Ski Resort CO B 72.0 Aspen Skiing Company

The Worst in the West. The SACC encourages the skiing public to choose moreenvironmentally friendly resorts than these:

Ski Resort State Grade Score Owner
Copper Mountain Ski Resort CO F 19.0 Intrawest
Snowbasin Ski Resort Utah F 20.1 Earl Holding
Keystone Ski Resort CO F 22.2 Vail Resorts
The Canyons Utah F 22.2 American Ski Company
Breckenridge Ski Resort CO F 22.8 Vail Resorts
Deer Valley Ski Resort Utah F 24.9 Bob Wheaton – President & GM
Vail Ski Resort CO F 28.6 Vail Resorts
Telluride Ski and Golf Company CO F 29.1 Telluride Ski and Golf Co.
Beaver Creek Ski Resort CO F 30.7 Vail Resorts
Crystal Mountain Ski Area WA F 31.2 Boyne, USA

Gavin Noyes, Save Our Canyons Program Director, noted that “Ski areas are notall the same when talking about the environment. The Ski Area EnvironmentalScorecard is an objective and fair measure of the environmental policies andmanagement of ski areas throughout the west. Polls demonstrate by and large thatskiers are an environmentally concerned group. Now skiers will have theinformation they need to act on their environmental ethic when choosing a skivacation destination.”

Through intensive review of scientific literature and case studies, such asEnvironmental Impact Statements for Master Development Plan revisions, expansion proposals, Forest Plan revisions; formal biological opinions prepared by theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; as well as marketing, economic, and operationalstudies prepared by the ski industry, the participating organizations of the SkiArea Citizen’s Coalition studiously documented many aspects of over 50 skiresorts’ environmental impacts and means to avoid them. The SACC is governed bya steering committee of six organizations thoroughly familiar with the skiindustry: Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition of Washington,Friends of the Inyo of California, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and SaveOur Canyons of Utah. These non-profit organizations include many skiers,snowboarders, and other recreationists who have an inherent interest inpreserving both skiing opportunities and the surrounding natural mountainenvironments.

The following organizations and individuals have also endorsed the Scorecard:Michael Soule, The Wilderness Society, Seventh Generation Fund for IndianDevelopment, Biodiversity Legal Foundation, Cascadia Forest Alliance, WildWilderness, Wildlands Center for Preventing Roads, Red Road Foundation, SodaMountain Wilderness Council, Sublette Riders Association, RESTORE: The NorthWoods, Live Oak Alliance, Magic/Trillium Community Land Trust, Kettle RangeConservation Group, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, Aspen WildernessWorkshop, Idaho Conservation League, Oregon Natural Resources Council, ColoradoMountain Club, California Wilderness Coalition, American Lands Alliance, ForestGuardians, Native Forest Council, Sinapu, and the Western Wildlife Conservancy.

Darcy Thompson, coordinator of Washington State’s Crystal ConservationCoalition, noted that “The ski industry itself continually informs us thatskiers are environmentally inclined. Yet until now, there has been no means forskiers or snowboarders to make recreation choices based on their concern for theenvironment.” A 1994 Roper Starch survey found that 38% of skiers, compared to21% of the public, have voted based on a candidate’s environmental positionwhile 58% of skiers, versus 42% of the public, have contributed to environmentalorganizations.

Ninety percent of ski areas in the western U.S. are on public lands administeredby the Forest Service. Ski areas concentrate recreational use, permittingtremendous numbers of people to enjoy and learn about delicate mountainenvironments in a safe manner. When undertaken in an environmentallysustainable manner, ski resorts can minimize their impacts on the land. At thesame time though, developed ski areas are an intensive land use that createsignificant environmental impacts from logging, erosion from land disturbanceson steep mountain slopes, and damage to wetlands from ski run and facilityconstruction and maintenance. Gavin Noyes, Issues Coordinator for Utah’s SaveOur Canyons, pointed out that “there will always be environmental impacts fromcreating and operating a ski resort. The Scorecard rates ski areas on theircurrent environmental policies and management, not on the impacts from the timeof the creation of the resort.”

Since 1997, consolidation of the ski industry has driven expansion of manyresorts in an effort for each to “keep up with the Joneses,” while others expandto bolster the value of nearby real estate development sales. For two decadesnow, skier numbers have increased less than 1/10th of 1% per year, yetexpansions proceed at an unprecedented rate. In the White River National Forestof Colorado for instance, home to such ski area icons as Vail, Breckenridge, andAspen, skier numbers have increased only 28%, yet skiing acreage has more thandoubled while numerous expansions are now proposed or underway. According toJeff Berman, Executive Director of Colorado Wild: “some resorts have a ‘developat all costs’ attitude regardless of environmental impacts or public opposition,yet others rely on more caring environmental management decisions. TheScorecard clearly delineates which resorts fall into each category.”