Heads up, tree-hugging tree skiers: Aspen Mountain Ski Resort ranked number one out of all western ski resorts on the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition annual environmental impact report cards for the 2008-2009 ski season. Three other Colorado resorts -- Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Telluride -- made the Coalition's top 10 list, and two others -- Powderhorn and Monarch -- received "A" grades on the Ski Area Environmental Scorecard.
Aspen Mountain scored an 85.7 percent on the report card,
with perfect scores in categories like responsible real estate
development and road construction, protecting endangered species
habitat, protecting old growth forests and unique ecology, conserving
water and energy by avoiding new snowmaking, preserving water quality,
and supporting green policies.
Why ski at areas with a positive environmental grade?
Numerous surveys and the ski industry itself recognize that skiers
consider the environment a higher policy priority than the general
public does. Unfortunately, there has been no way for the skiing
public to make recreation choices based on their concern for a healthy
environment - until now!
The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard strives to differentiate
between ski areas that are engaging in environmentally sound practices on the ground versus those that merely claim to do so. While there will always be environmental impacts from creating and operating a ski resort, the intent of the Scorecard is to rate resorts on the environmental performance of their current management, not on the
impacts from the time of the creation of the resort. Criteria are clearly defined so that ski resorts can choose to improve their environmental performance, and thus their grade. The ski industry obviously needs to be a good land steward; the Scorecard will hold them accountable to preserve the mountain environments that draw skiers in the first place. Ski areas concentrate recreational use, permitting tremendous numbers of people to enjoy and learn about delicate mountain environments in a safe manner. When undertaken in an environmentally sensitive manner, ski resorts can minimize their impacts on the land and provide memorable experiences for all their guests.
Of course, Denver residents will have to lay down some carbon footprints to get all the way to those eco-friendly resorts, but the solution to that conundrum is obvious: Plan to stay as long as you can once you're up there.
A few of the resorts closer to town didn't fare as well: Copper Mountain has the dubious distinction of being the lowest ranked resort in the survey, with a failing grade of 31.9 percent and zero marks in dozens of categories, including protecting endangered species habitat (its trails and facilities improvements were determined "likely to adversely affect determinations for Colorado pikeminnow, bonytail chub, humpback chub, razorback sucker, and lynx or their habitats").
Copper Mountain was also dinged for permanent removal and disturbance of its wetlands and old growth forests, and for excessive snowmaking activities and increased water diversion from Ten Mile Creek.
Breckenridge also received a failing grade (36.1 percent), the only other Colorado resort on the Coalition's "F" list; Winter Park got a D (48.9 percent). Click here for the full report card of all ski resorts in Colorado.