"Green" skiing advocates condemn resort land development | ParkRecord.com

"Green" skiing advocates condemn resort land development

An environmental group promoting conservation by ski resorts in the West rated Park City Mountain Resort as the fourth most responsible out of 18 that received "A" grades.

This rating is not surprising considering the accolades received lately for its "green" efforts including the 2008 Green Power Leadership Award from the federal government. Also of note, Deer Valley received a full letter-grade higher than last year, and despite high marks in many areas of conservation, The Canyons was chided for its land development.

Hunter Sykes, who oversaw the grading as research director for the group, Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, said he’s disappointed with the sprawl in Summit County in general.

PCMR has received high ratings from the group in the past.

"We try hard. We try to be good stewards of the environment. We’re happy to be recognized by this group among our peers," said Brent Giles, resort director of operations and Powdr Corporation’s director of environmental affairs.

PCMR purchases renewable energy, uses biodiesel and works to reduce its carbon footprint. One area it received high marks that was the source of the other two resort’s lower "grades" was land use.

Giles said PCMR works at preserving open space on its mountains, not only for environmental reasons, but because they believe it produces a better experience for skiers.

Giles and resort spokesperson Paula Altschuler said an agreement was signed last year prohibiting any possible development of the summits to protect those open spaces.

Last year, Deer Valley received a "C" from the coalition because of real estate development which Bob Wheaton, president and general manager, told The Park Record at the time he thought was unfair.

This year’s improved grade is because of better education on the part of Deer Valley to the group on things the resort has been doing in the past, Wheaton said in a telephone interview this week.

"The last couple of years hasn’t reflected efforts that have been made," he said. "But when we get an ‘A’ that will reflect it. The thing to keep in mind is that we’re all on the same page."

Wheaton cited energy conservation, recycling, downstream water management and forest management as just a few of the issues Deer Valley works at.

No one at The Canyons got back to The Record with a response to its "C" rating, but the resort’s score has been improving in recent years even though it received negative points for its road and parking lot construction as well as its real estate projects.

Land use plays such an important part in the group’s scoring because alpine environments are so fragile, Sykes said.

"It puts a major human footprint in those areas and can have major impacts," he said.

Resorts usually build homes in meadows and other flat areas near their slopes and that’s exactly where deer and elk migrate in the winter.

"I’ve skied a lot of Utah resorts, and overall Summit County in general is a little disconcerting to me," he said. "All the way out to Heber it’s looking like outright sprawl like Denver."

He said The Canyons deserves "kudos" for some of its initiatives and the resort has a good "environmental ethic," but he condemns its push to develop and sell real estate.

Personally, Sykes said he’s an admirer of European Alps villages. The mountains have been solidly settled for 500 years, yet people live together in condensed areas and protect the open areas in between for agriculture or public use.

Loyal Clark, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, said mountain real estate development is causing a fragmentation of wildlife habitat that is reason for concern.

In the Wasatch mountains, deer, elk and lynx migration routes have been seriously affected by alpine development.

"We are mandated to provide for habitat for those species," she said.

Watersheds and air quality are also affected by mountain real estate, she said.

Sundance resort received top marks from the coalition in Utah (and no. 3 overall) and Brian Head landed in the bottom 10 of the entire West with a "D."


Deer Valley: B

The Canyons: C

Grades by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition based in Durango, CO. See the breakdown at http://www.skiareacitizens.com

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