Resorts outline global warming response
Frisco forum raises industry sustainability issues
 

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Arapahoe Basin Ski Area chief operating officer Alan Henceroth, left, moderates a panel discussion about climate change and ski industry at the Summit County Community and Senior Center Thursday night. The panelist are, from left, Jen Schenk from Copper Mountain, Rick Sramek from Breckenridge, Tom Easley from the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, and Dave November from Keystone.
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

BY BOB BERWYN
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

November 9, 2007

Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY — Invoking the National Ski Areas Association’s (NSAA) Sustainable Slopes charter and Keep Winter Cool campaign, local ski area executives Thursday evening touted their leadership role in tackling global warming. The issue is “front and center” for the weather-dependent sport, said Arapahoe Basin’s Alan Henceroth, moderating an Our Future Summit panel on the ski industry response to climate change.

The ski industry can lead the way in raising awareness about potential global warming impacts because of its high visibility, Henceroth said, describing efforts by local areas to reach out and educate its customers.

The biggest step local resorts have taken is to invest in wind energy in a big way, helping to drive a large-scale shift toward renewable energy sources, Henceroth said. Equally significant is the industry’s advocacy for policy change at the state and federal level, he added.

Based on some of the latest research presented by Rocky Mountain Climate Organization program director Tom Easley, there’s good reason for the ski industry to tackle the climate challenge head-on.

“We are kind of action central in the West for warming temperatures,” Easley said, referring to the Colorado River Basin, citing a list of impacts with implications for local ski areas.

Many climate change models project significant snowpack shrinkage, earlier snowmelt, more winter rain events and reduced summer flows in mountain streams, Easley said. There haven’t been many studies that specifically pinpoint impacts to Colorado ski areas. But some of the research suggests that Aspen’s base area could be snow-free by the end of this century.

Carbon footprint

Copper Mountain’s environmental manager Jen Schenk said her resort is establishing baseline CO2 emission figures against which to measure progress in coming years.

Copper’s annual environmental report features a detailed section on the resort’s natural resource consumption, with specific figures on electricity, natural gas, diesel and propane usage, along with a chart showing conversion to CO2 emissions.

“If you’re not measuring it, it’s pretty tough to save energy,” Schenk said.

She also outlined the resort’s intent to have the new Camp Woodward action sports facility designed as a green building, and said a focused outreach effort will aim to reduce energy comsumption in Copper’s primary seasonal housing building, The Edge — which is the single largest energy consuming building at the resort.

Copper has also improved its waste stream diversion rate from 14 percent to 26 percent by boosting the availability of recycling bins and upping collections around the resort.

Schenk said she thinks the ski industry should adopt specific goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, similar to state targets set under Gov. Bill Ritter’s climate action plan, announced just a few days ago.

Keystone environmental manager Dave November said a statewide approach, including renewable energy portfolios and carbon credits, could be a more realistic and flexible way of reducing emissions on a meaningful scale.

Equipment upgrades

Breckenridge vice president of mountain operations Rick Sramek addressed the energy issue more obliquely, citing his resort’s long-standing interest in saving energy by investing in efficient equipment.

By focusing on more efficient snowmaking equipment, and improvements to its snowcat fleet, the area has managed to keep energy use in check while improving its product and service level, he explained.

“I’m not going to tell you we’re doing it with less energy, but it is more efficient,” Sramek said. He touted advances in snowcat technology that have cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by 60 percent and said Breckenridge can make more snow without lengthening the snowmaking season.

Energy use has increased, but not in direct proportion to improvements in products and services, he explained.

Saddled with numerous old buildings, at the Peak 8 base, for example, Breckenridge has worked hard to retrofit facilities with energy management systems, Sramek added.

November discussed Keystone’s aggressive recycling program, explaining that, by diverting 1,000 tons of material from the landfill, the resort cuts about 1,400 tons of potential greenhouse gas emissions.

He said Keystone is looking at the possibility of on-site solar power generation, but said that option is still expensive, even with tax credits and incentives from energy companies.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

 

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