From: RGJ, Environmental Health News, More from this Affiliate
Published December 16, 2009 08:03 AM

Ski Industry on the Front Lines of Global Warming

Over the past 16 years, the ski season has been steadily shrinking -- despite the fact resorts dramatically have improved their snowmaking, expanding it over a wider area and investing in technology that allows them to make snow at warmer temperatures.

But according to the National Ski Areas Association, Western ski resorts have been losing nearly a day of skiing a year since 1990. Whether you call it global warming or climate change, warming temperatures -- last week's cold snap notwithstanding -- are having a serious long-range effect on skiing.


The ski industry, experts said, is the canary in the coal mine -- the thing that will die first when the weather is too warm to support a snowy Sierra winter. That's why groups like the Ski Area Citizens Coalition, which handed out its environmental grades for Western resorts, have been so critical of resorts' efforts to combat global warming.

The ski industry officials say they aren't ignoring the threat of global warming. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an industry that does more to battle climate change than ski resorts.

The industry launched its fight against climate change several years ago with its Keep Winter Cool program, and since then more than 60 resorts have purchased renewable energy credits they said help reduce their carbon footprint.

Renewable-energy credits are payments made to alternative-energy producers, such as wind farms or solar-energy producers. The credits don't mean the resorts actually are using renewable energy to run their lifts and power their night-skiing lights, although some are.

About 30 of the United States' 326 ski resorts say they are offsetting 100 percent of their energy use through renewable-energy credits. That group includes Vail Resorts, which owns Heavenly on the South Shore, and Sugar Bowl, which was the first California resort to completely offset its energy consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits.

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