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Ski Resorts Warm to Wind Power

Ski resort owners are increasingly coming to terms with the risk global warming poses to their weather-dependent industry. Many are now turning to wind power as an alternative source of energy.

In the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, temperatures are expected to climb five or six degrees by the end of the 21st century. Some European resorts have even closed due to a lack of snow.

Instead of burning fossil fuels to produce energy, wind turbines generate electricity solely through natural wind power. Some resorts can operate directly from a local wind farm, like Sugar Bowl in California. Others, like Vail in Colorado, have opted to purchase wind credits in order to offset their electricity usage.

In general, wind power costs more than other forms of electricity, though
several resorts already find it more cost-effective. Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts hopes to save more than 500,000 dollars a year by avoiding fossil fuels. Some argue that such policies also draw more environmentally conscious visitors and sponsors.

According to National Geographic, 22 resorts in the United States now use wind power credits to supply 100 percent of their electricity demands. Some resorts also now provide visitors with the opportunity to buy “Mini-Green Tags,” each representing 100 kilowatt-hours of wind power. Vail also gives one-day lift tickets to guests who buy a year supply of wind credits.

In 2000, The National Ski Areas Association created a program called “Sustainable Slopes” in which members voluntarily commit to environmental responsibility. The charter, available online at ( lists member resorts. Some criticize the program, however, saying that participating slopes actually have poorer environmental records than non-participants and that the program lacks accountability.

Of course, ski resorts have long been criticized by environmental groups for destroying forests, endangering wildlife, and overdeveloping surrounding areas. Critics argue that these environmental efforts are more for show than anything else and that many resorts continue to make environmentally unsound choices.

Even so, those using alternative energy provide good examples of how greener policies mean better long-term business. Hopefully other resorts will catch wind of this profitable opportunity.

Additional Resources:
* In 2004, the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition rated the “most environmentally friendly ski resorts” and the “least environmentally friendly.” (
* In 2006, the San Francisco Chronicle listed resorts that offset 100 percent of their electricity use by buying wind power credits:
* also currently lists resorts that sell “Mini-Green Tags.”

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