High marks for Park City resorts | ParkRecord.com

High marks for Park City resorts

Gina Barker, The Park Record

When it comes to environmental practices, Park City resorts made the honor roll this year. The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado, released its annual report outlining the environmental practices of every ski and snowboard resort in the country.

While other resorts in Utah may be attending a metaphorical summer school, Park City resorts are gushing about their good grades.

"We used to be number six on that list," said Deer Valley Resort communications manager Emily Summers. "And since that submission we’ve moved up to number three. It’s the highest we’ve ever been."

Resorts are graded based on four categories: habitat protection, watershed protection, environmental policies and practices and addressing global climate change. Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort ranked in the top five in the nation, both with straight A’s in every grading category. Canyons Resort received an overall B, scoring highest for environmental policies and practices with an A and the lowest in addressing global climate change with a C.

The research director for Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, Warren Rider, said good grades were not all good news and that may be because, nationwide, most resorts are not dramatically expanding or developing.

"It was quiet this past year," Rider said. "We don’t know for sure if the fact that there were fewer degrading (construction) projects driven by the economy or the expirations of tax credits or something else. But we don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing resorts aren’t building as much."

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The most significant portion of the grading processed is based on expansion plans at the resorts, and while those were on the decline, so were renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. According to Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, for the first time in five years, no resort significantly increased green projects.

While green efforts may have been more modest than in years past, Summers said she is proud of where Deer Valley is at today.

Deer Valley ranked third place, the highest of any resort in Utah, falling behind Squaw Valley USA in California and Aspen Highlands Ski Resort in Colorado.

"We’ve come a long way," Summers said. "A few years ago our grades were nothing you’d want to share."

Since then, Summers said the resort has taken a new approach to green policies.

Deer Valley Resort created a Green Team, a group of resort employees from every department working on a volunteer basis to implement environmentally-friendly policies.

"Efforts and policies are so much more centralized," she said. "Our recycling has picked up beyond belief. Everyone knows what’s going on."

The resort added recycling centers on the lodging docks of every lodge, focused on using locally-sourced food products, providing reusable plates and silverware, Summers said.

"We even remodeled to accommodate for extra dishwashers to support the switch to reusable plates and utensils," she added.

"Forty-five percent of your total score is based on overall development," said PCMR director of operations, Brent Giles. "That could skew what you’re grade is depending on what you’re doing."

Canyons Resort was hurt in development category of the report for the additional 200 acres of skiable terrain added with the Dreamcatcher Lift and the construction of the Silverado Lodge.

Canyons Resort did switch all the resort snowmobiles to more fuel-efficient, four-stroke models, the only resort in town to do so.

Giles at PCMR said the resort managed to reduce its consumption of electrical energy by over two million kilowatt hours.

"That relates to a huge amount of carbon we’re not putting into the atmosphere," Giles said. "It’s a good return on our investment financially and a good return environmentally."

PCMR also recently installed a wind turbine and solar panel on the top of the mountain.

"I wish everyone had a higher grade than us," he added. "I know what we do and I know if people were above us, people would be doing the right thing. The environment is not a blinders issue; it’s a global issue."