Skico at top of the class
November 21, 2005
Aspen’s the top dog, at least when it comes to environmentally friendly ski resorts. In fact, the 2005/2006 Ski Area Environmental Scorecard gave three local mountains – Aspen, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – an A grade in its most recent rankings; Snowmass earned a B.And that’s heads above other Colorado resorts, according to the coalition that released the scorecard. The only other Colorado resorts to receive an A were Eldora and Wolf Creek; several resorts, including Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Crested Butte, got an F. Both Beaver Creek and Vail mountains earned D’s.Each year, the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition grades 77 ski resorts based on criteria including development, habitat preservation and conservation efforts. Aspen Mountain received 91.6 percent, Buttermilk came in at 91.1 percent, Highlands trailed with 71 percent, and Snowmass brought up the rear locally with 66.8 percent. By comparison, Vail received 43 percent while Beaver Creek did slightly better with 47.8 percent. The state average was 57.4 percent.Beaver Creek Mountain spokeswoman Christina Schleicher said the grades don’t matter as Vail and Beaver Creek continue “engaging in sound environmental practices.”According to Schleicher, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone did not participate in the survey that helped create the scorecard because they found the survey “non-scientific and originating from an organization whose members exhibit bias in their view of and actions toward the ski industry and, in particular, resorts.”Made up of nonprofits Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition, Lands Council, Environmental Resource Center, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the coalition’s scorecard is created from data collected from government records or ski resorts. It is meant to promote skiing at resorts with good grades. But coalition officials said they realize low-scoring mountains are popular as well and encourage skiers and snowboarders to ask the low-scoring resorts to improve their environmentalism when they visit. And there are plenty of such places, with fewer than half of the ski resorts in the Western United States making the grade, Demmy Bidwell said. The most obvious reason for a bad grade: development.For example, Vail was hit hard by a request to increase snowmaking in 366 acres in Game Creek Bowl and the Back Bowls, and also docked for construction the resort did in wetlands in 2004.”People at Vail said if the development is not approved, it shouldn’t count against [the score],” Bidwell said. “They say it’s not fair, but I think it’s important for people to know.”Snowmass lost many of its points for similar reasons, receiving zero out of 22 possible points in the category for “Protecting or Maintaining Threatened or Endangered Species and Their Habitat.” Aspen Mountain, on the other hand, scored an A for its lack of current or proposed development.Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Snowmass were rewarded for their use of wind power and for their recycling efforts. Still, the Skico’s resorts pulled ahead on these two fronts.”Vail needs to be more proactive,” said Ben Doon, research director for the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition. “They seem to be stuck in neutral. A few years back, they bought some wind power, but they haven’t moved forward since then.”The Vail Daily contributed to this report.