Colorado resorts consider sustainability, snowmaking
Colorado ski resorts are driven to save money by reducing climate impact.
If Colorado ski resorts learned one lesson the hard way this winter, it was this: Snowmaking can be very expensive when nature isn’t producing powder on its own.
So as many resorts begin off-season capital improvements, they’re looking to upgrade equipment, especially in snowmaking, in ways that save both energy and money — a perfect marriage of smart business and the industry’s environmentalism.
Improvements that reduce water and energy usage, though initially costly, are likely to benefit the industry’s bottom line in the long run. And they also appeal to skiers who prefer resorts with green practices as they decide which ones to visit, said John Sale, director of planning and sustainability for Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
“A lot of it is based on business decisions,” Sale said. “We have made a commitment to reduce our energy use. We’re concerned about climate change ... But the reality is, when you can cut down on your energy use significantly, that’s an ROI [return on investment] you can show.”
Lift operations and snowmaking are generally resorts’ highest operational costs. But in a season like winter 2011-12, when low snowfall was a major factor in the state having its lowest skier totals in 21 years, the more frequent and later-season snowmaking weighed even more on resorts.
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