Vail says its greener than ‘scorecard’ |

Vail says its greener than ‘scorecard’

Melanie Wong
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” Colorado ski resorts became more environmentally friendly overall and Beaver Creek’s green ratings went up from a D to a C compared to last year, according to the Ski Areas Citizens’ Coalition.

But Vail got slightly worse ratings and Breckenridge, which is owned by Vail Resorts, failed.

The group publishes a yearly scorecard that evaluates resorts’ environmental performance based on protection of forests, wildlife, and water, and their support for things like carpooling, recycling and green energy.

Beaver Creek scored 48.8 percent and a D last year and improved to 58.7 percent and a C this year. Vail scored 53.9 percent and a C grade last year and went down slightly to 52.7 percent and scored a C again.

Both mountains lost points for past and ongoing expansion projects. Beaver Creek lost points for requesting zoning of 1,300 acres of additional terrain for McCoy Park and Mud Springs. The expansion has been in the works for a few years, and tree removal and terrain development continued through 2007.

Beaver Creek improved in ratings mainly because it had previously been unfairly penalized for the Westin Resort development. However, this year, those points were given back to Beaver Creek, said Hunter Sykes, research director for the Ski Areas Citizens’ Coalition.

Vail lost points for expansion and construction projects, including a proposal made this summer that would connect West Earls ” terrain currently outside of Vail’s patrolled and maintained area ” to Blue Sky Basin and “significantly expand acreage,” the report card said.

Vail was also penalized for a 2007 proposal to expand the Golden Peak race venue that would add two new lifts and lay snowmaking infrastructure.

However, Vail got points for a solar-powered trash compactor at Eagle’s Nest, as well as a plan to install 36 solar panels at Two Elk Lodge. Other pluses for Vail included plans to work for top environmental certification for all Ever Vail buildings, points for promoting employee carpooling, and subsidizing the town of Vail and county bus systems.

Sykes said Vail Resorts has never participated in the grading process or responded to the scorecard.

“Unfortunately, Vail Resorts is one of the companies who tend to do a lot of localized destruction because of real estate development,” Sykes said, referring to projects such as Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek.

The continued expansion can chase out wildlife, and is unnecessary, he said.

“There are less skiers now than there were 20 years ago,” he said. “There’s not a need to expand, expand, expand.”

However, some resorts say the scorecard is unfair and misleading.

“They are judging a resort by a footprint,” said Geraldine Link, director of public policy at National Ski Areas Association. “If it’s growing in any way, they get an F. It scores on a footprint and not on the sustainability of the operation. It penalizes growing resorts and rewards resorts that are already built out.”

The report card only gives a small number of points for sustainability initiatives, such as using renewable energy.

“We’ve seen very aggressive sustainable programs coming out of Vail and Beaver Creek,” Link said. “There are plenty of leadership examples from them. I don’t think they got a fair shake.”

Kelly Ladyga, Vail Resorts spokeswoman, said the resort has taken steps to address environmental issues.

“We consider protecting the environment as one of our core values and are incredibly proud of our record of stewardship and the significant steps we have taken to improve our sustainable practices,” she said.

For example, Vail Resorts offsets 100 percent of it’s energy use by purchasing wind credits, and has a plan to reduce its energy use by 10 percent over the next two years.

Also, Vail Mountain recycles 70 percent of materials from the mountain and has the largest on-mountain recycling program of all the ski resorts in North America, said Liz Biebl, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain.

Top 5

1 (A) Aspen Mountain ” Colorado 85.7 percent

2 (A) Buttermilk Mountain ” Colorado 85.2 percent

3 (A) Sundance ” Utah 82.2 percent

4 (A) Park City Mountain ” Utah 79.1 percent

5 (A) Squaw Valley USA ” California 78.3 percent

Worst 5

1 (F) Copper Mountain ” Colorado 31.9 percent

2 (F) Sun Valley ” Idaho 34.3 percent

3 (F) Tamarack ” Idaho 35.6 percent

4 (F) Breckenridge ” Colorado 36.1 percent

5 (F) Mt. Spokane ” Washington 37.4 percent

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