Renewables Reveal a Deeper Concern in the Downhill Skiing World

Renewables Reveal a Deeper Concern in the Downhill Skiing World

Allison Donnelly for Zondits, February 2, 2015

On Monday, Montage Deer Valley – a hotel/residence on the slopes of the elite Deer Valley ski resort in Utah – announced that it was buying enough renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset its entire electricity use in 2015.

The property’s purchase of 11 million kWh worth of RECs is only its latest effort to make its operations green: it’s certified LEED Silver and its building in 2010 was planned to redevelop a contaminated mine site in Empire Canyon. Given the Montage Deer Valley’s prominence and visibility (the building can be seen from a number of the trails at Deer Valley, which is consistently ranked as one of the best ski resorts in the United States), its attempts to be an industry leader won’t be overlooked.

While a growing number of hotels and ski resorts are interested in cultivating a green image and promoting sustainability, there is a deeper concern among winter-sports enthusiasts that has drawn attention. A warming world threatens the one thing skiers can’t live without: snow.

Last year, the New York Times published a piece on the future of snow to coincide with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In the weeks leading up to the Games and throughout it, the weather itself was a news item: the mountains were blanketed not with the product of snowstorms, but with the product of snow-making guns and the 16 million cubic feet of snow stored from the previous winter; biathlon and snowboardcross events were postponed; temperatures reached into the 50s and trails offered slushy snow and mud. A University of Waterloo researcher found that if trends continue, only 10 of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics will be cold enough to host it again by 2050.

While there is a tendency to scoff at the idea of a warming winter a few days after Winter Storm Juno crippled parts of the Northeast with record snowfalls, researchers have indicated that in the future there will be less snow with more of it falling at once in major storms like Juno. These trends haven’t gone unnoticed by skiers or the $12.2 billion winter tourism industry, both of which can have formidable lobbying power, especially in the western states. Expect to see more support for renewables, efficient snow-making guns (which can use up to 85% less energy than older models), and action on ensuring that the world’s renowned slopes stay open for years to come.