There are a couple of environmental scorecards you can use to see how well your local ski area is doing to help conserve our resources and save the sport. The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard by the Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC) gives the most in-depth information while the industry-sponsored Sustainable Slopes Program provides ski areas with specific activities that will help reduce their carbon emissions and environmental impacts.
New in 2009 is SACCs comparison of ski areas by the five major industry players. The top performer were: Aspen Ski Company (Aspen Mt, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass) and Powdr Corp (Boreal, Park City, Mt. Bachelor and Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard) with the worst being Vail Resorts (Heavenly, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Vail)) followed by Intrawest (Copper Mountain Ski Resort, Steamboat Ski & Resort, and Winter Park Resort).
The voluntary NSAA’s database of ski areas highlights ski area environmental programs and practices. Information on this database is submitted by the ski area.
Clearly, ski areas want to do the right thing by the environment. The Sustainable Slopes Program, endorsed by 180 participating resorts, promotes environmental practice and stewardship through 21 Voluntary Environmental Principles and supplementary programs. But the Sustainable Slopes Program does not have clear standards or enforcement regulations. In fact, a 2004 study found that participation in the Sustainable Slopes Program was actually correlated with lower environmental performance ratings. While the Sustainable Slopes Program is the best effort to date in getting the ski industry serious about climate change, enforcement power lies in the hands of the informed skiing consumer.
Until better regulation and enforcement is in place, skiers are left on their own to decide which areas are making real enviromental efforts and which are simply spreading more marketing greenwash.