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January 7, 2007

Western ski areas ranked for impact on environment

The following story came from an Associated Press article written by Jesse Harlan Alderman.

“BOISE – The famed Sun Valley resort received low marks on a report card grading ski areas for their impact on the environment, while rustic Bogus Basin near Boise ranked in the top 10.

The annual Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition report rates 77 Western ski areas on a matrix of environmental policies, such as preservation of undeveloped areas, so-called “green building” practices and energy and water use.

Sun Valley received a “D” on the report card, notching 45.5 points on a 100-point scale.

The report is produced by Colorado wild, an environmental group based in Durango, Colo., and endorsed by several similar groups in the West.

Across the Northwest, Bogus Basin and Mount Bachelor, outside Bend, Ore., received “A” grades and were ranked in the top 10. Both areas benefited mostly from their lack of real estate and minimal ski area expansions.

“We don’t take off any points for infrastructure improvements within the existing footprint,” said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild. “But when they go outside the existing area for new buildings or ski terrain, they get dinged pretty hard.”

Silver Mountain in Kellogg scored in the bottom 10, with an “F,” or 39.2 percent out of 100. White Pass Ski Area in Western Washington fared the worst in the Northwest, also scoring an “F,” or 37.4.

In Montana, two areas near Bozeman – Big Sky, which is developing 5,000 acres it owns at the base of the mountain, and Bridger ski Bowl – both received “Ds” and were rated in the bottom 10.

The environmental groups docked Sun Valley for its proposals to expand real estate, open 102 acres of new ski terrain on Baldy Mountain and expand snowmaking for several ski runs, which requires building underground pipes and draining nearby water.

The central Idaho resort also lost points for its lack of recycling and green energy programs, said Ben Doon, the report’s research director.

“If they had the kind of green programs of Aspen or Grand Targhee, they’d easily have a ‘B,’” Doon said.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley’s director of public relations, questioned the report’s methodology. He said the resort has long resisted building the kind of sprawling base villages seen at many ski areas. Sun Valley has left most of its 2,600 developable acres untouched, he said.

The resort’s computerized snowmaking system, the largest in the country, helps it compete with Colorado resorts that receive more natural snow, Sibbach added.

“I’d ask who uses more energy?” he said. “It’s the other resorts who develop large condos and base villages. We don’t have any of that.”

Printed in the Spokesman Review January 7, 2007.

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