We are highlighting five ski mountains in the northeast that are taking proactive measures to protect themselves against the warmer winter that climate change causes. Part 4 of our Champions of Snow series was featured on Bolton Valley’s website. Check it out!
MORE THAN JUST YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD SKI AREA
By Carly Hicks, Climate Action Business Association
Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Richmond, Vermont prides itself on being the friendly neighborhood ski area; the perfect place to spend time outside with the family. It’s the place where you spontaneously run into your neighbor on the chairlift, spend hours making memories with friends and family, enjoy sunsets and moonlight over Lake Champlain, and shred the gnar in the backcountry. But all of this is at stake with a changing climate.
In recent years, warmer winters have lead to shorter ski seasons for the Bolton Valley community. Josh Arneson, Bolton Valley’s press contact, recalled last year’s El Niño brought a lot of rain and increased vegetation on the slopes. And with each winter warmer than the last, ski resorts across the country are facing unprecedented challenges.
In the face of these threats, Bolton Valley has incorporated a host of sustainability initiatives into their business practices, putting them on the radar of a Boston-based organization helping local businesses take targeted action on climate change. The organization, Climate Action Business Association , chose five New England ski resorts to highlight as Champions of Snow this winter, showcasing the efforts that small mountains are taking to lessen their environmental impact and adapt to the warmer winters that climate change brings.
Throughout the Champions of Snow interview, it became clear that Bolton Valley has been ahead of the curve on climate change preparedness. In 2009, they became the second ski area in the country to sport a wind turbine on site and generate electricity from it. The wind turbine uses a system called net metering, which allows any surplus energy generated to be transferred to the public-utility power grid. Capable of operating at low wind speeds, the turbine produces approximately 300,000 kilowatt hours of power annually, adding up to one-eighth of the energy used by the ski area.
“The wind turbine was ambitious” says Arneson. But with good will from their community, they took the opportunity, trusting the benefits of wind power. Already, Bolton Valley has reduced its energy consumption and increased cost savings.
In addition to investing in wind power, Bolton Valley has also purchased efficient snowmaking guns. The snow guns use less fuel and therefore pollute less carbon, while producing more snow. They help the area stay open longer, cut energy bills, and save approximately 171 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
These large-scale initiatives are complemented by many smaller projects. Energy efficient snow grooming, pellet stoves and local food in the base lodges, LED lighting, and recycled topsoil are a few other ways Bolton Valley reduces that climate impact. Easily accessible Vermont state programs that encourage energy efficiency were a great help in carrying out these initiatives.
Bolton Valley serves as a model for mountains across the country. By piecing together different energy efficiency and renewable energy technology, ski areas can prepare their business for an uncertain future while securing and improving their bottom line. “Try to do what you can” says Arneson. “Pick the low hanging fruit; it can save you money.”
If you are interested in Bolton Valley, check out their website or head over to the mountain for an amazing day on the slopes.