Green Ski Resorts…Come Again?

First Trax

No, not literally green. We don’t want that. But what we do want is for our favorite resorts to remain open for years to come, and the only way that will happen is if there’s snow. No matter your take on climate change and going green, you can’t really argue with numbers. Statistics show that average temperatures are on the rise and winters are getting warmer. Need I bring up last year’s dismal season?

Don’t worry, this commentary isn’t meant to depress you or squash your optimism for the season – so continue with your happy dance. If anything, it’s meant to simply plant a seed; or at the very least, give you something semi-enriching to think about it other than the awesomeness that awaits you on the slopes 😉 

World wide, we’re seeing more and more resorts that either can’t open or can’t stay open due to lack of snow. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened in our region. Some would even argue that if it weren’t for snow making, the lengths of seasons would be diminishing. It’s even been surmised that within the next few decades, resorts that are located in lower elevations won’t stand a chance. The upside is that there is something we can do about it and it doesn’t have to be by means that are bad for the environment.
<< Photo from Massanutten

It’s not rocket science to figure out that manmade snow requires A LOT of water. According to an article, "How Snow Makers Work," by Tom Harris, "it takes about 75,000 gallons of water to create a 6-inch blanket of snow covering a 200×200-foot area." Did your eyebrows raise yet? What’s even crazier is that "the system in a good-sized ski slope can convert 5,000 to 10,000 gallons of water to snow every minute." Put down your calculators and just keep reading — that means to cover that 200×200 area with a 6-inch layer, it takes anywhere from 15 to 7.5 minutes. Are you checking my math skills or taking my word for it? The bottom line is that not only does manmade snow require a lot of water, it also entails a great deal of power consumption.

Many resorts, including the 17 of our members, have at least a holding pond to store the water they use to make snow. The process works along the lines of the natural water cycle – the snow is made across the slopes; together with any natural snow, it melts and runs off into one of the reservoirs; the water stored is recycled to make more snow. The pump system that pulls the water is typically run by diesel engines.

Quite a few resorts are now using some type of renewable energy to offset their energy use and reduce their carbon footprint. One of these methods is the use of wind turbines. While it’s a hefty investment off the bat, it can actually strengthen the bottom line over time. The alternatives don’t stop there, and in fact, they don’t stop with the resorts.

 >>Photo courtesy of Ober

We, as visitors, can play a part in saving the slopes, as well! According to, "to help combat the rise in greenhouse gases, reduce the amount of time stationary engines and vehicles idle by encouraging guests to participate in anti-idling initiatives. If you idle for more than 10 seconds, you’re wasting energy." Not only that, but you can carpool. Then, there’s green gear and clothes made from organic cotton. You can shop at eco-friendly companies and buy a bamboo board, even. Look at that; just a few simple ways you can help out this season, too!

Without snow, we have no resorts; without resorts, we have no places to ski or board; without skiing or snowboarding, we have no fun, not to mention, no SkiSoutheast (scary, huh?)! Think it over for a bit and see if it’s worth it to you to do what you can.

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