Snow is the lifeblood of the ski industry, and Park City Mountain Resort believes that investing in sustainability and contributing to the fight against global warming is crucial to its long-term interests.

The Powdr Corporation, PCMR's parent company, takes seriously the threat that global warming poses to its livelihood. In 2006, Powdr participated in the Save Our Snow initiative and commissioned a study to analyze the effects of global warming on Park City's climate. The report predicted that if carbon emissions remain constant, PCMR's skiable terrain could be reduced as much as two-thirds by 2075.

According to Save Our Snow II, a follow-up climate study released in 2009, the economic impact of milder winters could cost Park City about "$392.3 million in lost output, $66.6 million in lost earnings and 3,717 lost jobs" by 2050.

The sobering results of these studies have convinced PCMR that the future of the town and their industry is dependent on addressing the causes of global warming.

That is why, last season, Powdr Corp promoted the former director of Mountain and Base Operations at PCMR, Brent Giles, referred to affectionately as "Mr. Green Jeans" by some of his co-workers, to chief sustainability officer for all of its resorts. The company owns nine other resorts, including Boreal, Copper Mountain, Killington, Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard, Mount Bachelor, Pico, Soda Springs and Gorgoza Park.


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"We've been trying to reduce our carbon footprint for the past seven years," Giles said. "We try to invest one percent of revenue (in sustainability). It doesn't always work out that way, depending on what kind of a year we've had, but Powdr has spent $6 million over the past six years for all of its ski areas."

This money has been invested in sustainability projects such as retrofitting lighting systems with energy efficient bulbs, installing lower-energy-use snowmaking, and promoting recycling programs for everything from paper to antifreeze. Giles said that recently installed energy-efficient snowmaking equipment for the King Con Ridge Terrain Park will, by itself, save $22,000 annually and reduce PCMR's carbon footprint by about 400,000 pounds, based on energy estimates from Rocky Mountain Power.

These sustainable practices at PCMR and other Powder Corp resorts has prevented the release of 128,925 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 22,363 cars, according to the Environmental Stewardship section of the company's website. Company-wide environmental protection measures have also reduced annual operating costs by $600,000.

While cutting costs plays a substantial role in PCMR's sustainability projects, Giles said that even more important is the ski resort industry's responsibility to help protect the environment and the snow that keeps it in business.

"As far as environmental initiatives are concerned, it's not every ski area that has ownership that believes it's a moral issue and sets money aside to take action against global warming," he said.

Powdr Corp's investment in green projects earned PCMR a fourth-place ranking in the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition's list of environmentally friendly ski resorts for the 2011-2012 season. The coalition is a nonprofit organization that grades western U.S. ski resorts on 35 criteria, most importantly the preservation of sensitive lands, water conservation, reducing waste and a commitment to clean energy.

It's not just environmental experts who are taking notice; the guests who come to PCMR are beginning to appreciate a more eco-friendly ski experience, Giles said.

"I don't know how you'd ever put a dollar sign on that or know if they were coming because of that, but I think people appreciate it. I think it's helped educate them to take steps in their own lives," he said.

The resort's concern for the health of its sensitive lands also could pay dividends in terms of opening up more terrain for skiing.

"We have a forest management plan at Park City Mountain Resort that was developed by a certified forest planner, a doctor out of Utah State University. Part of keeping your forest healthy is glading - getting rid of the standing dead (trees) and the downfall. It just so happens that when you do that, when you improve the health of your forest, it also opens up glade skiing," Giles said.

To help visitors learn more about the resort's sustainability initiatives, PCMR recently installed an education kiosk at the top of the Silverlode lift. The kiosk was built mostly with recyclable materials and is powered by a wind turbine and solar panel.

"It's all about finding a balance and doing the best you can the most efficient way you can," Giles said.

Sustainable practices at PCMR

  • Retrofitting of incandescent lighting systems

     

  • Installing lower water- and energy-use snowmaking machines

     

  • New wind turbine and solar panel

     

  • Environmentally friendly kiosk to inform guests of sustainability practices

     

  • Strive to earmark one percent of revenue to fight global warming

     

  • Upgrade from heating oil to propane

     

  • Installing more energy efficient windows and insulation
Information provided by: Brent Giles, chief sustainability officer for Powdr Corp

The potential consequences of global warming in Park City

  • About $392.3 million in lost output, $66.6 million in lost earnings and 3,717 lost jobs by 2050.

 

  • Skiable terrain could be reduced as much as two-thirds by 2075.

Information provided by: Save Our Snow climate study

Ski Area Citizens' Coalition Top Ten  

  • Squaw Valley USA - California

     

  • Aspen Highlands Ski Resort - Colorado

     

  • Deer Valley Resort - Utah

     

  • Park City Mountain Resort - Utah

     

  • Alpine Meadows Ski Area - California

     

  • Aspen Mountain Ski Resort - Colorado

     

  • Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort - Colorado

     

  • Stevens Pass Ski Area - Washington

     

  • Sundance Resort - Utah

     

  • Sugar Bowl Ski Resort - California
  • Information from: http://www.skiareacitizens.com