Sugarbush and the Environment
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Written by John Bleh
Even though I was born and spent my formative years in New York City, I was fortunate to be able to get into the wilderness a lot, and at an early age I gained a deep appreciation for the environment...
It certainly has been a challenging winter as far as snowfall is concerned. Luckily, we've been able to open 100% of our terrain and have the most open trails in the East for a large portion of the season. That's thanks in large part to the snowmaking upgrades we've made over the last several years. When we were approached with the opportunity to make a large snow-gun purchase last season--418 low-energy Ratnik, HKD and Snow Logic guns-- it was a win-win for us. The guns use 1/50 of the air that our old guns use, and they put out a great product.
The snow-gun upgrades allow us to enjoy significant energy savings. In fact, we saw a 13% kWh reduction and a 21% dollar savings last season compared to the previous one. That's a pretty big deal when you look at our electric bill. Those savings are mostly attributed to the energy-efficient snow guns, and our new LED lighting around the resort.
Whether it's something you experience every day, like snowmaking, or something more behind-the-scenes, like lighting, we have a number of environmental initiatives happening around the resort. Why? For starters we're committed to preserving and improving the natural environment in which we're located. The ski industry must be involved in battling climate change, considering what's at stake for us, and we continue looking for ways to decrease our carbon footprint. Many of these initiatives also offer us long-term savings, measured in energy, waste, and fuel. A lot of folks don't see our various environmental initiatives, but (as a former green-business undergrad at UVM) I think they're worth pointing out.
It starts with our partners. We work closely with the U.S. Forest Service in preserving the Green Mountain National Forest, whose lands host many of our winter and summer activities. Organizations like the VT Agency of Natural Resources, Friends of the Mad River, and Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership provide valuable guidance in our efforts to improve water quality in the surrounding streams and brooks. (We won a Governor's Award and recognition by the EPA in 2011 for our long-term water remediation project that led to Rice Brook being delisted from the state "impaired waters" list.) We also collaborate with The Green Mountain Club and the Catamount Trail Association on permanently protecting recreational trails. Timbers Restaurant is a member of 1% For The Planet, and donates 1% of its revenues each year to organizations such as the Vermont Land Trust, the Mad River Path Association, and Friends of the Mad River. Finally, the Mad Bus is a great partnership that cuts down on commuter emissions by transporting residents, staff, and guests who are willing to leave their cars (and parking headaches) at home.
We've been a member of the National Ski Area Association's Climate Challenge, a voluntary program designed to recognize ski areas that are committed to developing green gas inventories, and setting goals for carbon reduction throughout their entire operation.
We have made significant strides in waste reduction at the resort. Hopefully you are familiar with the new four-stream waste receptacle in the Gate House Lodge Cafeteria. That unit was purchased with a grant from Sustainable Slopes--a NSAA program aimed at funding sustainability projects--and will significantly improve our diversion rate for recyclables, food scraps, liquids, and trash. Our goal is to implement the same four-stream receptacles in all resort base lodges over the next several months. It takes a little time to learn what goes where, which is why you'll encounter our "Trash Talkers" at peak times helping guests with proper disposal.
Our waste reduction efforts were actually recognized last spring with a Green Mountain Award for Environmental Excellence from the Vermont Ski Areas Association. This award recognized our increase in recyclables (33.3% of total waste) and composting (12.8 tons). (Increased recycling and composting translates to a decrease in waste sent to the landfill.) Our new base-lodge waste receptacles allow our guests to recycle and compost, and will help us increase those diversion rates even more.
We have a number of other cool things happening around the resort: The majority of our off-road machinery is fueled by biodiesel (including our groomers); we have installed two Tesla charging stations in Clay Brook (with plans to add more EV charging stations in the near future); and we're involved in several solar initiatives that will make us off-takers of new panels being installed, helping our overall fuel mix.
The environment is everyone's responsibility. If we want great skiing and riding long-term (and a healthy planet), we all need to fight climate change. It can start with easy steps like composting, recycling, and riding the Mad Bus.
Here's hoping for a snowy February and March. I'll see you on the mountain.