“Alpine skiing” and “living green” do not seem compatible. Flat land skiers jet across the country, rent SUVs, and drive a few more hours to mountain homes or condominiums. While they sleep, snow guns blast a fresh layer of snow and legions of snow cats prepare thousands of acres of groom slopes. That’s a lot of greenhouse gas just to escape New Jersey for a week.
So how can an individual skier reduce the carbon emissions of this sport?
1. Reduce transportation-related carbon emissions.
Do this by skiing locally when you can–the shorter the distance, the less carbon you’ll be emitting. Fill your car with family and friends–or find someone to car pool with using facebook, twitter, or the good old fashion telephone. What better way to keep a thriving social life than to car pool to your favorite resort together? Better yet, use local shuttle services to your local ski area.
If you’re not lucky enough to live near a ski area, take the train if possible because the impact of emissions from planes in the upper atmosphere is much greater. If you must fly, try to book the more environmentally friendly aircraft like the Airbus A319, Boeing 787, or the slower but much more fuel efficient turboprop planes. Given the lack of standards and regulations, do your homework before buying into a carbon offset program to make up for some of the carbon emitted by your flight.
2. Find a green ski area.
Almost every area touts some type of “green” efforts to show that they are doing their part to save our snow. But it can be tough to sort effective green policies from greenwash. The folks at the Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC) provide the most in-depth assessment of the environmental performance of their favorite resorts. But be aware that SACC’s grading system strongly penalizes ski area expansion while carbon emissions are weighted lightly. The voluntary, industry-sponsored NSAA’s database of ski areas highlights ski area environmental programs and practices. While you’re at the ski area, fill out customer comment cards or use email to let the ski resort you’re paying attention to their green efforts.
3. Find a Green Hotel
It takes a lot of energy to keep your mountain hideaway warm and cozy room. Thankfully, there are many hotels and lodging associations that can help you stay comfortable while minimizing your environmental impact. Ideally, you can avoid renting a car and use local shuttle transportation from the airport and to the ski area.
4. Find the goods where you’ve never looked before.
Great skiing is often found off the groomed slopes. Try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Better yet, try backcountry skiing as a great way to enjoy mountain peaks that are untracked and deep. Several ski areas offer guide services to some of the most amazing terrain in the world–just outside of their ski area boundaries. But remember, avalanche danger is real so go with a certified mountain guide and listen to what they tell you to do.