Winter is one of my absolutely favorite seasons. It houses Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and best of all, snow. And to me, snow means one of my favorite activities: skiing!
Whether you’re a seasoned snowboarder or a bunny-slope warrior, the ski slopes have something to offer us all (even if it is only hot chocolate in the lodge cafeteria). Surprisingly though, considering I kiss the snow every 5 feet, skiing isn’t always the most environmentally friendly activity. Between the lifts and the plows and the resort hot tubs running all night long, skiing can leave quite a mark on Mother Earth. But it doesn’t have to.
If you’ve got plans to hit the slopes this season, keep nature and a few of these things in mind:
Are the slopes graded or cleared?
This one’s tricky because it’s a little hard to tell whether you’re skiing on a graded or cleared slope. A cleared slope is created by cutting down trees and shrubs to make a smooth downhill run. A graded slope is like a cleared slope on steroids. Bulldozers are brought in to scrape off the top layers of the soil to make the run unnaturally smooth and hence, boring. This leaves that particular ecosystem in ruins, causing erosion and decreasing plant biodiversity. Plus, it takes a lot more resources to maintain because the natural infrastructure isn’t in place to maintain itself. When you have the choice, ski on a cleared slope to challenge yourself and save the environment.
Ski on real snow.
Early on in the season, many resorts bring in huge snow making machines that guzzle water and energy just to attract the early birds. The best way to decrease this practice is to wait until it’s actually snowing to hit the slopes. Moreover, many resorts use graded ski slopes just to open the runs a week early, so give ‘em a double whammy by waiting until it’s actually ski season to make your trek to the mountains.
Ski cross country or choose chair lifts wisely.
Cross country skiing is one of the most energy intensive exercises, burning up to 500 calories per hour depending on weight. What’s more, that energy you burn translates into energy you save by not using a chair lift. If you’re a pansy like me and can’t handle cross-country, don’t fret, just try to find lifts powered by renewable resources. Aspen in Colorado, Crystal Mountain in Wisconsin, and Heavenly Ski Resort in California all have made efforts to find cleaner ways to power their ski lifts.
Rent your equipment.
This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. Sharing equipment with other people means that you buy less and thus, fewer resources are needed to manufacture ski and snowboard gear. If you have to buy your own skis or snowboard, be sure that you sell it or give it away when you’re finished so somebody else can have some fun!
Check your resort before you go.
The Ski Area Citizens Coalition has an amazing website that gives every resort a grade based on its efforts to be environmentally friendly. If you don’t have a regular ski spot, find your new favorite by checking out the Top Ten on the SACC homepage. Otherwise, check your local resorts by selecting your state and ski area.
Happy skiing and snowboarding!