How Green Is Thy (Ski) Valley?

The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition scores the environmental record of major ski resorts with their Ski Area Environmental Scorecard

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

With winter blowing snow in force in many parts of the country today, lots of hikers are likely putting snow baskets on their poles and swapping hiking boots for ski and snowboard boots. But while many of us strive to be as leave-no-trace on the trail as possible, it’s easy to forget about that when you’re riding a lift. Ski resorts can leave huge carbon footprints, waste tons of water, and generally help destroy the fragile mountain environments they bring millions of humans to every year.

But a few ski resorts have tried to implement environmentally-friendly measures, some with more success than others. That’s why the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition has released their annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, listing the top ten best and worst ski areas for the environment. To assemble their scores, the coalition took analyzed a resort’s effect on impacting roadless areas, logging old growth forests, energy efficiency, and how much clean energy they buy.

The five greenest resorts include Aspen and Buttermilk in Colorado, Sundance and Park city in Utah, and Squaw Valley in California. The five dirtiest resorts for this year include Copper Mountain and Breckenridge in Colorado, Sun Valley and Tamarack in Idaho, and Mt. Spokane in Washington. If your favorite hill isn’t in the top ten or worst ten, it’s somewhere in the environmental middle.

Of course, to go really green while skiing or boarding you can always apply what backpackers already know and hit the backcountry. Earn your turns, baby.

Does the environmental record of a ski resort affect whether you will ski there this winter? Let us know in the comments section below.

— Ted Alvarez

Ski Area Environmental Scorecard (Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition)