PCMR: it’s really green
December 28, 2007
Park City Mountain Resort is the greenest ski area in Utah and one of the most environmentally friendly in the nation, an activist group has determined.
Deer Valley Resort and The Canyons — they’re just average, according to the Durango, Colo.- based Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition.
The group says PCMR is No. 3 nationally, behind Aspen and Buttermilk in Colorado, and it gives high marks to many of PCMR’s environmental programs and its overall growth. It got an ‘A’ rating.
Deer Valley and The Canyons received ‘C’ grades, with Deer Valley slightly ahead of The Canyons.
Still, the coalition’s research director, Ben Doon, says Park City’s three resorts are "pretty good" stewards of the environment.
"The bottom line is we’ve seen quite a bit of improvement," Doon says, claiming environmental awareness is substantial and increasing in the Park City area.
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In previous report cards from the group, PCMR generally got ‘B’s, Deer Valley got ‘C’s and ‘D’s and The Canyons received ‘C’s and ‘D’s.’
The organization ranked the resorts based on their scores in a point system that considers 14 criteria — with resort expansion and preserving what are deemed "undisturbed lands" being among the most important categories. The coalition considers the last five years as it assembles the rankings.
The American ski industry in recent years has tried to bill itself as being green, claiming the future of skiing depends on the environment and the weather. Locally, the resorts have signed onto environmental programs like using cleaner-burning renewable energies.
"It’s important that our resorts are good stewards of our environment. We live and die by the mountains we play on," says Nathan Rafferty, the president and CEO of Ski Utah, an industry group. "The resorts would be doing themselves a big disservice if they weren’t good stewards of the environment."
Rafferty, though, dismisses the coalition’s work, claiming the report is a "biased source" against the ski industry. It is not a credible environmental report card, Rafferty claims.
Some of the details about the local resorts’ grades include:
( PCMR scores perfectly in key categories, such as not expanding terrain outside the resort and real estate development. In some lesser categories, however, it receives zero points, including for providing incentives for skier carpooling and promoting mass transit.
"More and more people will probably become your customer, your guest, because they’re like-minded," says Brent Giles, who directs environmental programs for PCMR parent Powdr Corp.
Giles touts PCMR’s green efforts, describing the resort’s use of vehicles that run on biodiesel, which is a cleaner-burning fuel, cutting the number of snowmobiles and trucks at the resort, employing an energy-efficient snowmaking system and installing lights that last longer than normal ones.
Cleaner wind-generated power accounts for 15 percent of PCMR’s energy, enough to run four of the resort’s six-passenger chairs through the ski season.
"We have to do everything we can to be good stewards of the environment," Giles says.
( Deer Valley scores well in categories like protecting habitat for endangered species and preserving water quality, but its results were weak in the important categories of expansion and real estate — winning just 5 out of a possible 50 points in the two.
The report card acknowledges outside developers like Deer Crest, not Deer Valley, are building at the resort, but the coalition awarded the resort no points in the real estate category. It knocked off points in the expansion category based on Deer Valley’s new Lady Morgan Express lift, among other work.
Bob Wheaton, the resort’s president and general manager, says Deer Valley performs well environmentally, including providing habitat for wildlife.
"I am proud of what we do on a daily basis as far as being stewards of the land," he says, contending Deer Valley conserves energy and recycles.
He challenges the low score Deer Valley received in the expansion category, saying the Lady Morgan terrain years ago was put on the resort’s long-range maps.
The real estate category also frustrates Wheaton, who says the other developers brought down the score.
"We have no ownership. We have no influence. We have no control," he says, adding, "Somebody arbitrarily says, ‘Too bad, we’re going to dock you anyway.’"
( The Canyons garnered high grades for its efforts to conserve water and protect water quality, and it won a perfect score for protecting habitat for endangered species.
However, The Canyons, like Deer Valley, received lower marks in critical categories like expansion and real estate. In those two categories, The Canyons receives 5 out of the possible 50 points, the same score as Deer Valley.
Spokespeople for The Canyons did not immediately respond to telephone calls seeking comment.