Ski resorts use sustainable appeal

Jennifer Collins Feb 23, 2010

Ski resorts use sustainable appeal

Jennifer Collins Feb 23, 2010


Steve Chiotakis A lot of winter sports fans continue to converge on Vancouver for the Olympic games. Other ski and snow areas, though, around North America are looking for ways to bring people through their gates. At a resort near Lake Tahoe, promoters are using environmental credentials to appeal to visitors year round. From the Sustainability Desk, Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins checks it out.

Jennifer Collins: I’m on a ski lift, dangling above Lake Tahoe with Rachael Woods. She promotes Homewood Mountain Resort and its green credentials.

Rachel Woods: We could throw a snowball in the lake.

Woods keeps a close eye on the resort, skiing its slopes in winter and jogging them in summer. Near the summit, we dismount the lift to look around.

Woods: Where we’re walking right now was one of the spots where logging happened.

Years before it became a ski resort, the property provided access to logging and mining operations. Miles of roads from those days still criss-cross the land. The problem is: Every spring, snow melt and rains carry dirt right off those roads and into Lake Tahoe. The lake loses — on average — a foot of clarity per year. Several nearby communities draw their drinking water from the lake.

Woods: So one of the major visions behind maintaining Homewood was to eliminate those roads to get rid of them.

Homewood has spent more than half a million dollars tilling and planting 240,000 square feet of old roads, making barren strips into something more like meadows. Ski resorts across the country are under pressure to restore environmental damage, whether that damage happened last year or decades ago.

Jonathan Cook-Fisher is with the Forest Service, which oversees the majority of U.S. ski areas:

Jonathan Cook-Fisher: We’re very much more geared and focused on sustainable slopes.

With or without regulatory pressure, resorts may need to show they’re “greening up” their slopes to attract more visitors.

Mike Hogan is with Integrated Environmental Restoration Services. He’s the consultant in charge of the Homewood projects.

Mike Hogan: More young people are coming along who are better educated about the environment, understand what’s going on and will put their money into a more environmentally savvy entity.

Hogan says it’s still a small segment of the market, but:

Hogan: One or 2 percent can really make a difference.

And the resort is betting that’ll be enough to bring business to the hotel rooms and condos it plans to build over the next few years.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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