Aspen ski areas garner high environmental grades |

Aspen ski areas garner high environmental grades

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. has three of the 10 greenest ski areas in the western United States, an environmental coalition that scrutinizes the industry said Monday.

The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition ranked Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk second and third, respectively, and Aspen Highlands eighth on its top 10 list. The three ski areas earned “A” marks in the coalition’s rankings.

Snowmass got a “B” and didn’t place in the top 10. But the coalition on its website labeled the Skico “one of the leaders in the ski industry on both social and environmental issues.”

“They address just about every category on our scorecard,” said Paul Joyce, research director for the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, which is based in Durango. “They just tend to do everything well.”

Snowmass got a lower grade than its three sister resorts because of its water consumption for snowmaking, Joyce said. That was the only blemish on the four ski areas’ report cards.

Auden Schendler, Skico director of environmental affairs, welcomed news of good grades because the coalition is the only third-party organizations looking at the ski industry’s environmental practices.

“We’re psyched,” he said. “We think by any measure – legitimate or not – we’re going to come out in the top 10.”

Scheduler referred to legitimacy because some factions of the ski industry have criticized the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition for biased reviews. The former grading system was weighted against ski area expansion.

Joyce said the coalition expanded its grading system this year, after grading ski areas for the last decade. It breaks the grade into four major components: habitat protection, watershed protection addressing climate change, and environmental policies and practices.

Colorado resorts, as a whole, were credited with leading the industry in environmental policies and practices, but lagging behind in “on-the-ground conservation.” The state’s resorts were criticized for lacking a comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change.

The Skico was an exception. Joyce noted that Schendler is frequently drawing attention to the problems presented by climate change and lobbying for solutions.

“He’s somebody [who] definitely gets the impact and is trying to do something about it,” Joyce said.

The only disappointment for the Skico is that its ski areas got bumped from the top spot in the 10 greenest resorts’ list. Squaw Valley, Calif., had the top ranking.

Rounding out the top 10 with the Skico resorts were Sundance Resort, Utah, at No. 4; Alpine Meadows, Calif.; Park City Mountain Resort, Utah; Bogus Basin, Idaho, at seven; Powderhorn near Grand Junction, at nine; and Homewood Mountain Resort, Calif.

The “worst 10” included Breckenridge and Copper Mountain Resort. The environmental coalition gave both failing grades for alleged impacts on wildlife and watershed by expansion plans.

More details about the ski area scoring can be found at

Joyce said the coalition hopes that environmentally conscious travelers will visit its website and use it to determine where to vacation. An additional goal is to get residents of ski towns to use the research to lobby for changes in their hometown resorts.

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