N.M. ski resorts join green movement | AspenTimes.com

N.M. ski resorts join green movement

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

ALBUQUERQUE ” New Mexico ski areas are selling renewable energy offsets, upping the efficiency of equipment and exploring the use of alternative fuels and energy efficient building techniques.

It’s all part of a national trend by ski resorts to reduce their carbon footprints ” the amount of carbon dioxide emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels.

More than 61 ski resorts in 18 states purchase renewable energy offsets, according to the National Ski Areas Association. Neighboring Wolf Creek ” a Colorado destination for many New Mexico skiers and snowboarders ” purchases 100 percent wind energy and recently installed low-flow toilets.

Some large-scale, eco-friendly improvements at resorts in other states include Jimmy Peak Mountain Resort in Massachusetts, which installed a wind turbine capable of generating 30 percent of its annual electricity demand.

Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado is running its snowcats on a biodiesel blend, purchasing renewable wind power credits and has developed a green building policy.

“Since its inception, the industry as a whole has identified the importance of environmental stewardship,” said Troy Hawks of the National Ski Areas Association. “Within the last 18 months, it has really come to fruition.”

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If global warming experts are correct, average temperatures in New Mexico could increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit this century and decrease the winter sport’s lifeline ” snowpack.

“Climate change is happening now, and ski areas have a huge opportunity to reinvent themselves, said David Griscom, renewable energy program manager for the nonprofit Regional Development Corp. in Santa Fe.

New Mexico’s ski industry generates $290 million and attracts thousands of tourists each year, according to Ski New Mexico, an industry trade organization.

But, Griscom says, resorts have a substantial carbon footprint.

One large-size New Mexico resort, for example, consumes 3.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 100,000 gallons of propane each year, which equals 9.4 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

A medium-size resort uses 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year for its main lifts only, which equals 2.6 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficiency is one of the easiest ways to reduce a ski area’s carbon footprint, Griscom said.

Taos Ski Valley recently launched a “green tag” program. Visitors can pay $2 extra on the price of a lift ticket to offset their carbon emissions from driving to the resort. The money goes to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which invests it in wind, solar and other types of renewable energy development.

Taos also is exploring how to incorporate energy efficient building design into a $34 million renovation of its base area. The resort recently overhauled its snowmaking equipment to be more energy efficient and is exploring the use of biodiesel for its automobile fleet.

“Part of operating on public land keeps you thinking about environmental initiatives,” said Adriana Blake, marketing director for the resort.

Angel Fire Resort is developing an environmental education campaign for consumers, launching a green tag program to offset the energy of running its high-speed quad chair lift and exploring a partnership with a hybrid car manufacturer. It also hopes to incorporate environmentally sustainable design into renovations of the base area, country club and hotel.

Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos is looking into erecting a wind turbine on the mountain to provide much of its electricity. It also will offer green tags and is replacing light fixtures with low-wattage fluorescent lights.

Don Sauer, Pajarito business manager, says the ski area is interested in pursuing environmentally sustainability, but changes like installing a wind turbine likely won’t happen for a few years.

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce the amount of pollution we put into the environment,” Sauer said. however, the ski area is small, and “all these kinds of things have to make sense economically.”