We all know that ski resorts have a large environmental footprint. As Outside magazine recently noted, ‘with sprawling mountainside villages, water-guzzling snow machines, and high-powered chairlifts, it’s no secret operating a ski resort can be a dirty business.”

Here in Australia some resorts have taken small steps to reduce their impact, but its still fairly dismal when you consider their overall operations. Outside have recently listed the best 10 US-based resorts when it comes to environmental responsibility. While the bigger resorts that come with having a much larger population have greater financial capacity to change their operations, these examples do provide some ideas for any resorts here who are serious about taking their environmental and climate responsibilities seriously.

Megan Michelson, writing in Outside introduces her story by saying “in recent years, mountains around the country have started taking steps to reduce their environmental footprints by switching to renewable energy, banning single-use plastics, upgrading to water-saving snowmaking machines, and incentivizing skiers to arrive by public transportation, electric cars, or carpools. Which is all right and good, but is it enough?”

Some have gone further. Here are some highlights, taken from Megan’s article. What I find especially inspiring is that a number have gone from reducing the footprint of their operations to also engaging in advocacy on climate issues (see this recent story on Aspen’s new climate advocacy campaign for an example of this approach):

Aspen, Colorado:

  • ‘the company captures waste methane from a local coal mine to generate carbon-negative electricity to help power the resort’
  • it also engages in advocacy: ‘along with sister company Alterra and Protect Our Winters, Aspen was a strong advocate for electric services company Xcel Energy’s plan to close two Colorado coal plants and replace them with wind and solar’

Diamond Peak, Nevada:

  • free shuttles from town to the slopes, electric vehicle charging stations
  • the resort hopes to run entirely on renewable energy by next year

Sugarbush, Vermont:

  • resort installed 15 electric vehicle charging stations
  • built a solar array that supplies power to the local grid
  • upgraded its snowmaking system to reduce energy usage by 24 percent

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado:

  • resort matches employee contributions to an environmental fund that contributes to local land conservation efforts
  • in 2017, it installed a second solar array that generates nearly all the power needed by the summit lodge and ski patrol headquarters building

Snowbird, Utah:

  • released a carpooling app to further its mission to improve local air quality by promoting ridesharing and public transportation
  • Snowbird also engages in advocacy – eg the resort recently sent delegates to Washington, D.C., to lobby Capitol Hill for climate change policy

Berkshire East, Massachusetts:

  • one of a few resorts in the world that generates all of its electricity from on-site renewable energy sources, thanks to a wind turbine and solar field (NB – this is a family owned mountain, so doesn’t have big bucks behind it – so this is doubly impressive)

Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado:

  • supports energy conservation programs
  • advocacy in support of global climate action

Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico:

  • has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
  • to achieve that, the resort upgraded the snowmaking machines, added electric vehicles to its fleet, and built a geothermal heating and cooling system for the Blake, the newly built base hotel

Crystal Mountain, Michigan:

  • it recently outfitted its hotel with geothermal energy.
  • the resort also lobbied the local utility company to get more renewables on the grid

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, California:

  • resort plans to be powered entirely with renewable electricity by the end of this year.

You can read more of Megan’s work on her website.