Ski areas rely on the quality of the environment surrounding their area
to attract skiers and a stable climate that creates conditions for natural
and man-made snow. To preserve the environment upon which the ski area
depends, ski areas must consider on-mountain operations that affect local
climate, water and energy use, hazardous and solid waste generation, water
quality, and public perception. Some ski areas go even beyond that. Aspen-Snowmass,
for example, has a three-pronged approach: efficiency, renewables, and
Ski areas must also consider environmental concerns that are not directly
related to on-mountain operations such as wildlife habitat and transportation
to and from the ski area. However, these topics, while extremely important
from an overall environmental and sustainability perspective, are outside
of the scope of this topic hub.
Global climate change may be the most important environmental issue facing
the ski industry and might drastically impact operations in the near future,
as the trend toward global warming continues. Warming, of course, shortens
the length of the ski season and reduces the quality of snow.
Long-range planning presents a great opportunity to incorporate pollution
prevention into daily operations that can help ski operations be viable.
Many ski resorts are actively involved in global climate change issues.
They are greening their operations, educating guests on ways to "Keep
Winter Cool", and working with local, state, and federal governments
to mitigate global warming and drought.
To collectively address the long-term challenges presented by climate
change and continue its commitment to stewardship under the National Ski
Areas Association Sustainable Slopes program, members adopted a climate
National and local concerns over water supply place ski areas under pressure
to reduce the large volume of water used for snowmaking. Snowmaking requires
about 75,000 gallons of water to create a 6-inch deep layer of snow over
a 200- by 200-foot area. Snowmaking can convert more than 2,000 gallons
of water into snow in about a minute. In addition, ski areas use water
for food preparation, building operations, and hotel/condominium guests,
so it is possible for ski areas to benefit financially from implementing
water savings techniques and technologies in all of these areas as well.
The energy bills at ski areas are complex and include several tiers of
charges. Further, many ski areas are in a unique position in that they
set the peak demand for energy use in a given billing period. Consequently,
energy use can be among a ski area's largest regular expenses. Ski areas
that focus on their billing structure, peak demand, obtaining energy from
renewable sources, and energy conservation can significantly reduce monthly
The time and effort involved in managing the proper disposal and record
keeping for hazardous waste generation at a ski area can be significant.
Further, mismanagement of the hazardous waste can cause significant environmental
damage, risk human and habitat health, and lead to costly fines. It is
possible for even a large ski area to eliminate its hazardous waste generation
or at least reduce the volume to the point that it attains conditionally
exempt small quantity hazardous waste generator status. The liability
and labor savings are significant drivers for this change.
Ski areas generate solid waste primarily during construction and deconstruction
activities, but also in office buildings, purchasing department (for example,
packaging material), vehicle maintenance, food and beverage services,
building maintenance, lodging, and grounds maintenances. Limited space
in mountain-community landfills can lead to higher tipping fees at landfills
and the potential for the landfills to meet capacity, which can cause
ski areas to have to transport solid waste significant distances for disposal.
This increases not only the cost for disposal, but also associated issues
with fuels use and emissions from waste transportation. The rising cost
of solid waste disposal forces ski areas to consider alternatives to solid
waste disposal in landfills.
Construction activities, grounds maintenance practices, and chemical
use on ski areas will potentially create sources of pollution. For example,
pollution can be introduced to sensitive water bodies through groundwater
runoff and snowmelt. Runoff issues present growing challenges to communities
that rely on water for residential, commercial, and industrial uses.
and Public Perception
Perception and public opinion are important drivers in ski area management
Magazine published a two-part series on the issue of the evolving
public opinion on ski areas and their relationship to the environment.
Ski areas on the forefront of creating a positive public perception involve
their employees and customers in developing policies and action plans
that address environmental and pollution prevention concerns.
With skier days also down due to a worldwide economic slowdown, ski areas
must use technologies and long term strategies that give the best return
on every dollar taken in. Solutions for sustainable winter and mountain
sports and recreation are being tried throughout the world.