EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Ski Areas and the Environment
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Ski Areas and the Environment

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Every year, a group called Ski Area Citizens issues a report card grading Western Ski Areas on their environmental stewardship. You can view this years report card here http://www.skiareacitizens.com/ .

My question is, how many skiers pay attention to this issue. Does (or will) this information effect where you choose to ski. If this information will effect you choices, how much weight will it carry?
post #2 of 28
I do pay attention, read local press on the topic, and have read Downhill Slide, which addresses the role of the big ski companies in changing the face of the environment and mountain communities.

I am a little conflicted, though, because while I consider myself highly interested in the preservation of the environment, I also think that people need to get out into the great outdoors to understand why it should be preserved. Skiing is a great way to get people outside, and chairlifts are great tools for getting people to an altitude where they are able to view so many things worthy of being preserved.

Even though most resorts are far from perfect, it is impressive that we see so much recycling and some efforts to operate facilities on wind and solar power. Even five or 10 years ago we were seeing none of this, so it gives me hope.

The pace of residential real estate development CAN be frightening, however, especially in states like Colorado, which face a real water shortage in a few years if the population keeps exploding. (Colorado has very little groundwater and is almost entirely dependent on surface water--a good snow year--for residental, argricultural, and commercial use.) However, I have less concern with the redevelopment of existing high-density areas (like Lionshead at Vail) or the addition of a few more high-density units to base villages than I do the introduction of sprawl to outlying areas, like some of the huge neighborhoods outside Edwards and Wolcott. And the enormous proposed development at the former mine site outside of Minturn, not far from the fringes of the gorgeous Holy Cross Wilderness.

I know there's need for less expensive housing for the folks who actually live and work up there, but I would argue for additional high-density, with shared services, easy (walking) access to necessary shopping, and lots of mass transit, instead of traditional, flat-land sprawl making its way into the mountains.

I am a little concerned, too, at the continued interest in expanding lift-served terrain. Vail is enormous already. Breckenridge is enormous already. If people really want the experience of skiing true experts-only terrain (and they are actually capable of it), then what's wrong with a little hiking? Most in-bounds hikes are only 10-30 minutes, anyway. I, for one, would rather hike it than wait in line to sit on a poma platter. But that's just me. A little masochistic. And hey, if you really want an out-of-bounds experience, get some avy training (or a guide) and go to Forest Service land and ski without needing to get a lift ticket. Shocking!

So the upshot of this long-winded answer is that yes, I pay attention, and yes I care about a resort's environmental record. That said, I am more likely to keep skiing the places I love and try to make a difference by talking to people and being informed, rather than boycotting.

Mollmeister
post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 
Well put, Molliemiester. I am fortunate that most of the places I ski received good grades, with the exception of Crested Butte. I tend to avoid the mega resorts anyway, prefering a more folksy setting.

Outright boycotting would be hard. If I was in Utah with my friends and they all wanted to go skiing at Snowbasin (Grade F) I would certainly suggest going elsewhere. If they all insisted, I would no doubt relent and go along.
post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK
Every year, a group called Ski Area Citizens issues a report card grading Western Ski Areas....
Their rating system, unfortunately, is highly silly. Their primary criteria is: any expansion or new lifts is bad.

They don't even take into account how developed the area currently is. An area with one fixed-grip double which wants to add one more is bad, while an area with 36 accelerating quads which has no development plans may be at least marginally okay.

These guys are really an anti-skiing* group masquerading as a legitimate watchdog.

-------
*Or at least anti-lift-served skiing, which, in the interest of fairness, I'll acknowledge isn't quite the same thing as anti-skiing.
post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 
I was born and raised in the Mountain West, and I admit that I fall into the camp that almost all new development is bad. That doesn't make me anti-skiing at all. I encourage people to take up the sport and hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

I just don't see how things like multi-million dollar ski in-ski out homes that foul wetlands benefit anyone except the resort owners and the people that can afford such a home. I think the group makes a good point that growth in numbers of skiers is pretty flat in relation ski area expansion and development. Cutting down old growth timber and fouling wetlands does not seem to increase skier participation...
post #6 of 28
Snowbasin is owned by a very conservative Republican. So what are the chances that an environmental group is going to give any grade other than a "F"?

And Sundance, which is owned by Democrat Robert Redford got an "A".

I shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you!

We should return Utah's ski areas to the condition that they were in 100 years ago......silver mines where the timber was being Clearcut and arsenic was being used to separate the silver from the ore.
post #7 of 28
How about lifts?

Or day lodges, sufficient so that some significant percentage of the guests can sit down and eat lunch between 11 and 2 pm?

If the anti-ski-area people drew their line in the sand 15 years ago, instead of today, every area with an accelerating lift would have a failing grade. And, if areas had heeded their "ratings," we'd all still be standing in 45-minute lift lines.

The way to ensure that skiing vanishes as a sport in the US is to stop any improvement of facilities.
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
Their rating system, unfortunately, is highly silly. Their primary criteria is: any expansion or new lifts is bad.

These guys are really an anti-skiing group (or at least anti-lift-served skiing, which, in the interest of fairness, I'll acknowledge isn't quite the same thing as anti-skiing) masquerading as a legitimate watchdog.
I looked at the report card wondering the same thing, "Who are these guys and what gives them authority to do the grading?" But my take-away was that it was kind of a mix. I like some of the stuff on their report card about supporting local mass transit, recycling, and alternative energy, which is a great way to get people starting to think about ways to cut impact.

Given the pace of development in the mountains and in and around ski areas in particular, I think they felt the need to draw the line in the sand somewhere. Personally I would like to see more redevelopment, but as for new development in previously untouched areas? It's getting a little too close to the areas in which I like to hike and camp and fly fish for my taste.

So yes to some kinds of development (re-) and no to others for me. In the minds of the graders, it seems a bit more like redevelopment and new development are probably in the same camp--BAD. I am not sure how I feel about that, especially since smart redevelopment (high density) will allow not only more *heads in beds* for the ski companies, in desireable locations closer to activities, but it could also mean more subsidized/low-cost housing for the people who actually work at these resorts, who are often currently commuting up to two hours from trailer parks at the fringes of the mountain communities.

I will say that I am a bit put off that the Colorado Wild group that participates in this is a bit more wildlife-focused than some environmental groups, and seem to be caught up in the whole issue of the lynx in Colorado. I am all for keeping the animals around (I saw an ermine the other day at Copper, and that was very cool!), but the lynx is highly debateable as a reason to change development plans. (And I won't get into the whole sordid history of the *reintroduction* of the lynx. That's a whole different thread.) It's just doesn't seem very constructive to talk only about what will be destroyed, as many (not all) of the wildlife preservation groups seem to do. The big companies that hold the 100-yr use leases on the ski resort land end up taking an angry, defensive posture because they're being publicly accused of destroying everything good about the mountains. I have always learned it was better to enter a negotiation/discussion armed with ideas & solutions, not just accusations, and you're likely to make a lot more headway. A report card is a start, but a study that offers real, postive ideas for helping these guys improve their grades would be better.

Upshot is that I would like to see more *smart development* non-profits engaged in this discussion, along with the wildlife/nature preservation folks. Because no matter how much we want to keep the wilds pristine, the big ski companies will want (need?) to continue development. Somebody with some real, proven knowledge of issues like sustainable development, new urbanism, smart water usage, alternative energy, and mass-transit design could probably add some needed knowledge and credibility to the discussion. . . and get desireable results for everyone.

Mollmeister
post #9 of 28

Absolutely!

I was not aware of the ski area citizens coalition, but I find it very interesting. I am not sure if it will deter me from skiing certain areas but I will contact ski areas I frequent and ask them why they are not placing environmental concerns at a higher priority or I will complement areas that are showing environmental friendly developments.

I have never been confortable with artifical snow and it's environmental concerns, does anyone know of any studies that show any negative effects, if there are any?

Thanks for pointing this out to us.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Somebody with some real, proven knowledge of issues like sustainable development, new urbanism, smart water usage, alternative energy, and mass-transit design could probably add some needed knowledge and credibility to the discussion. . . and get desireable results for everyone.
Any construction on Forest Service land requires Forest Service approval of the whole she-bang. To get that, for anything significant, one is required to do huge amounts of work on environmental issues. We're talking about millions of dollars of fees to environmental engineers who do, indeed, have "real proven knowledge" of all those issues, as does the Forest Service.

The groups that make up this "Ski Area Citizens' Coalition" just take a flat, unreasoned, "all-building-is-bad" position. They're basically a variant of NIMBYs.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
It would seem from looking over the material that ski areas that have replaced existing lifts with high speed lifts have not been docked too heavily for doing so. I also don't buy into the argument that money brought in from development = better day lodges for me and the other rabble.
post #12 of 28
This is an environmental report card. Putting in new lifts does harm the environment. A resort may choose to put in a new lift, and it may be a good thing for skiers, but not for the mountain environment. It doesn't mean that we should never do it, but we should be realistic as we look at the consequences.

Getting P.O.'d because they give a bad grade and blaming it on tree huggers or Democrats is not opening your eyes and dealing with the reality.

Life is always a tradeoff.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK
It would seem from looking over the material that ski areas that have replaced existing lifts with high speed lifts have not been docked too heavily for doing so.
If they did it, they're not docked at all.

If they're planning to do it, they're likely to get an F.

Quote:
I also don't buy into the argument that money brought in from development = better day lodges for me and the other rabble.
But ... planning to build a new day lodge is sufficient to get an F.

I'm not saying that there can't be a reasonable system of rating the environmental record of various ski areas, or that such a thing might not be useful.

But this isn't it.
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
If they did it, they're not docked at all.

If they're planning to do it, they're likely to get an F.
Alta put in a high speed lift and rebuilt the Watson Shelter still got a B *shrug*
post #15 of 28
Take a look at the horrible corporate despoilers of the environment in the Pacific Northwest:

Mt. Ashland - D
49 Degrees North - D
White Pass - F

Yeah, compared to Aspen (A), those are monster-mega-resorts with tons of facilities for the rich ....
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
Take a look at the horrible corporate despoilers of the environment in the Pacific Northwest:

Mt. Ashland - D
49 Degrees North - D
White Pass - F

Yeah, compared to Aspen (A), those are monster-mega-resorts with tons of facilities for the rich ....
I guess the Citizens don't have an anti-corporate bias then?
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
Any construction on Forest Service land requires Forest Service approval of the whole she-bang. To get that, for anything significant, one is required to do huge amounts of work on environmental issues. We're talking about millions of dollars of fees to environmental engineers who do, indeed, have "real proven knowledge" of all those issues, as does the Forest Service.

The groups that make up this "Ski Area Citizens' Coalition" just take a flat, unreasoned, "all-building-is-bad" position. They're basically a variant of NIMBYs.
I am aware of the Forest Service Studies and all of the money poured into them. What I am suggesting is that groups like the Ski Area Citizen's Coalition include people in their ranks who have outside, non-governmental knowledge of these issues as well. Might make them a bit more appealing to the groups doing the development, and might create something more akin to a partnership instead of a scourging.

I do want to point out, however, that although all of these environmental impact studies have to be done/have been done (and millions have been spent), we're still seeing a good deal of development that isn't all that sustainable or low-impact. Just doesn't seem to me that all of the very expensive Forest Service studies are necessarily accomplishing all that much for the sustainability side of the equation. Maybe we should be asking some different questions and using some different measures, since we are asking the developers to spend so much money on these things.

As a point of fact, it might interest you to know, since you are (I think) assuming that I am completely on the other side of the fence, that my husband is actually in the resort real estate biz. Not saying with whom or where, as it's me posting, not him, but I have a certain vested interest in the success of ski area real estate.

I just don't see why development and common sense about natural resources always have to be perceived to be in conflict. Development can be done in a sustainable fashion, with an eye toward the future. It has been done elsewhere and it can be done in the mountains.

Maybe not everyone on the scorecard with an "F" deserved an "F", and certainly there is bias in these grades. . . but perhaps something can be learned from the folks who got "As," rather than worrying so much about who got "Fs" and what sort of personal & political bias might have been involved?

Hell, my favorite ski resort got a crappy grade. That bums me out. . . but I'd like to find a way to help them become an "A," rather than worrying about the "whos" and the "whys" of that D/F.

Mollmeister
post #18 of 28
For those (most, I suspect) who may not appreciate the background of my post just above:

49 Degrees North:
-4 fixed-grip double chairs
-Tiny little base lodge
-No rooms at all
-On their website under "Resort Amenities," the only information is about day care.

Mt. Ashland:
-Owned and operated by a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation.
-4 fixed-grip chairs (two doubles, two triples)
-Homey little day lodge, with super-duper amenities like a public-use microwave
-No rooms at all

White Pass:
-4 fixed-grip chairs (quad, triple, two doubles)
-Run for many years by that evil corporate tyrant, the Mahre brothers' father
-Condominium-type inn across the highway, for the ultra-rich, who can afford to spend $192 a night on a condo with loft that sleeps 6-8 people.
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK
Alta put in a high speed lift and rebuilt the Watson Shelter still got a B *shrug*
Maybe is was because they put it by removing 2 other lifts and using the same lift towers and alignments....
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mollmeister
I am aware of the Forest Service Studies ...
My post was intended to be critical of the Coalition, not your post. I was really taking a somewhat different tack in noting that a great deal of environmental expertise and oversight is being employed, just not by the Coalition.

Which is not to say that the results, or the process, is perfect. But the approach taken by the Coalition is, if anything, counter-productive to trying to make the process better. More-or-less because they don't take what you suggest is the more effective approach.

Quote:
I just don't see why development and common sense about natural resources always have to be perceived to be in conflict. Development can be done in a sustainable fashion, with an eye toward the future.
Right. They don't have to be in conflict. My primary criticism of the ratings is that they assume that they always are.
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK
I guess the Citizens don't have an anti-corporate bias then?
Actually, I wasn't the one who said they're anti-corporate. I just think their ratings are arbitrary, or so narrowly based as to be meaningless.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sjjohnston
I was really taking a somewhat different tack in noting that a great deal of environmental expertise and oversight is being employed, just not by the Coalition.

Which is not to say that the results, or the process, is perfect. But the approach taken by the Coalition. . . counter-productive to trying to make the process better.
Agreed.

I wish there were more productive discussions instead of name-calling & time-wasting on this topic, because I think the mountain developers have significant opportunity to do some really cool things. There's a lot going on right now, a lot of it high-density redevelopment, and they could really set the standard for what it means to be site-appropriate and sustainable.

. . .Then, 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, when everyone else is screaming over the cost of oil, these guys could sit back and smile and look at their solar and their wind and their great mass-transit systems. I think it would be great fun to be ahead of everybody, with a sh*t-eating grin in a couple of decades, when everyone realizes they want your low-fuel-consumption condo on a mass transit line with solar hot water.

Mollmeister
post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
I really didn't want this thread to be about the Ski Area Citizens as much as if the passionate skiers on this board are influenced by an areas environmental record when they make choices about where they ski and spend thier money. As Mollie pointed out there is usually lots of local press regarding development for review.

I am able to critically read the info on the Coalition's site and make my own determinations. It's a usefull starting point but I would never consider it the "last word."

The real question I asked is, how much does a ski area's environmental record effect your choice to patronise them? Many factors go into choosing a ski destination - quality of terrain, lift service. apres, etc.

Where do environmental issues fit into the mix?
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mollmeister
I do pay attention, read local press on the topic, and have read Downhill Slide, which addresses the role of the big ski companies in changing the face of the environment and mountain communities.

. . .So the upshot of this long-winded answer is that yes, I pay attention, and yes I care about a resort's environmental record. That said, I am more likely to keep skiing the places I love and try to make a difference by talking to people and being informed, rather than boycotting.
OK, since I helped get us off-topic, there's a partial quote from my original answer, when I was still on-topic. More to the point?

Mollmeister
post #25 of 28
I checked the details for Breckenridge (F) and found this:
Quote:
In October 2004 Breckenridge Resort proposed a new Peak 8 Summit Chairlift. Currently this is a hike-to only area, which accesses Imperial Bowl, the Lake Chutes and the upper reaches of the Cirque. In total, approximately 399 acres of skiable terrain are directly accessible from the proposed chairlift.
A little out of date, as that lift is already open.

I'm suspicious of environmental groups in general, and this seems like more propaganda. I don't think I'd be helping the environment any by driving the extra 100+ miles to Aspen, rather than stopping at Breck. I should be comforted because they're paying extra for their electricity and calling it "wind power", right?

Anybody seen pictures of Breckenridge before the ski area was built? It was basically a heap of gravel, left behind by dredge miners. Skiing has improved that valley environmentally, IMO.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterK
I was born and raised in the Mountain West, and I admit that I fall into the camp that almost all new development is bad. That doesn't make me anti-skiing at all. I encourage people to take up the sport and hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

I just don't see how things like multi-million dollar ski in-ski out homes that foul wetlands benefit anyone except the resort owners and the people that can afford such a home. I think the group makes a good point that growth in numbers of skiers is pretty flat in relation ski area expansion and development. Cutting down old growth timber and fouling wetlands does not seem to increase skier participation...
hell yeah!
post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrbd
I'm suspicious of environmental groups in general, and this seems like more propaganda. I don't think I'd be helping the environment any by driving the extra 100+ miles to Aspen, rather than stopping at Breck. I should be comforted because they're paying extra for their electricity and calling it "wind power", right?

Anybody seen pictures of Breckenridge before the ski area was built? It was basically a heap of gravel, left behind by dredge miners. Skiing has improved that valley environmentally, IMO.
I have seen this in many areas in my life. Most of the time, the environmental watch dogs are one sided and don't look at the environmental down side to thier goals.
I could list many examples but I think one will do:
Our motorcycle club did trail maintenance for several years. Clean up dump sites in the forest and cleaned up storm damage...etc.....
The environmental groups thought the motorcycles were a source of the problem in the forest, and had us kicked out. Since then, they've found out that we were a source of the solution.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by trekchick
I have seen this in many areas in my life. Most of the time, the environmental watch dogs are one sided and don't look at the environmental down side to thier goals.
I could list many examples but I think one will do:
Our motorcycle club did trail maintenance for several years. Clean up dump sites in the forest and cleaned up storm damage...etc.....
The environmental groups thought the motorcycles were a source of the problem in the forest, and had us kicked out. Since then, they've found out that we were a source of the solution.
bad decision spot-wise, but there are many reasons to dislike moto use in many areas. here in Missoula there are more MTB/moto conflicts than there need to be, and most are started by moto riders. you can check with the Lolo NF office, I'd wager they'll confirm this. there is a really good reason that the IMBA is cautious about working with the BRC.

but with that said,

it's usually a few bad actors that ruin the scene for everyone. and I'm thinking of getting a moto.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Skiing Discussion
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › On the Snow (Skiing Forums) › General Skiing Discussion › Ski Areas and the Environment