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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Choose the powder that uses safe power

By Andy Thompson

This week marks the beginning of Utah’s favorite season, the reason many students attend the U: the greatest snow on earth.

The snow is among the world’s driest, falling at a moisture density rate below 10 percent. This blessing is due to all that salt in the Great Salt Lake and its proximity to the Wasatch Front-one of the crown jewels of Utah’s unique landscape.

There are seven resorts all within an hour of the U and all accessible by a backcountry hike and ride along the Wasatch Front. The resorts-Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude accessible on the western face of the front, and Canyons, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain from the east-offer a vast and challenging terrain to explore.

And they bring in a lot of cash. Estimates by Ski Utah have the industry raking in $1 billion this year, after totaling $874 million last year.

The snow enthusiast (a term chosen to avoid offending any of the sub-cultures that stem from going down a snow-covered hill) can’t go wrong when choosing Utah. In fact, with all these options, a powder connoisseur can be selective when choosing a resort.

One element to consider that is vital to the industry as a whole is the environmental aspect. Vail Resorts and its five mountains across the West recently pledged to offset 100 percent of its energy needs with wind power and other renewable energy credits-a major step for an industry leader whose success is directly related to global warming.

The seven resorts in the Salt Lake/Park City area all understand the value of their surroundings and all do something to help the environment. As Solitude spokesperson Nick Como said, “Our business relies on the environment being healthy.”

Yet only three of the seven purchase any kind of renewable energy credits. So, below is a report card-a “consumer report,” if you will-of the group’s environmental efforts.

Brighton/Solitude: These two resorts are graded together not because they are adjacent to each other, but because they both lack initiative in the environmental department. Brighton spokesperson Randy Doyle said they have “just started to explore” wind energy options. At Solitude, Como said they are “looking into purchasing” wind power.

On the other hand, both revegetate with indigenous seeds during the offseason. Brighton uses efficient snowmaking machines, and Solitude tries to alleviate “visual pollution” deemed unnatural to a mountain setting.

Snowbird: Aside from blowing a hole through the side of a mountain, Snowbird is “committed to being environmentally sound and aware.” It even received Utah Hotel/Motel Association award for environmental excellence.

They, too, revegetate and are “talking about” purchasing wind power, said Snowbird’s director of public relations Laura Schaffer. “Anything to do our part (to curb global warming) we’ll do little by little,” she said.

She also noted that the resort cleaned up an old mine in Mineral Basin to ensure the quality of the valley’s water supply.

Deer Valley: Utah’s ritziest resort, Deer Valley “is always looking to better the environment, to be stewards of the environment,” said communications coordinator Erin Grady.

In press releases, Deer Valley has said it is a partner with Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, but fails to mention how many renewable energy credits it actually purchases. The resort did have Utah Power (now Rocky Mountain Power) run an audit of all its buildings in 2003/2004 for more efficient energy use.

Canyons/Park City Mountain: Park City’s other two resorts do purchase wind energy from Blue Sky. The Canyons currently offsets 6 percent of its energy needs with wind power. Park City Mountain offsets 15 percent.

“We are looking for companies that offer lower prices on renewable energy credits and toward the possibility of having 100 percent of our energy offset by this,” said Krista Parry, Park City Mountain’s director of marketing and communications.

Alta: Utah’s other skiing-only resort (along with Deer Valley) is the clear winner in purchasing wind power, offsetting 30 percent of its energy needs through Blue Sky.

“It won’t do any good to have a nice ski resort that everyone wants to go to if it’s too warm for snow,” said Alta President Onno Wieringa.

“We can work on educating people about global warming,” he said. “I have enough gray hair as it is to worry about the coal plants in China, but it is on our radar.”

Onno’s right. One can only worry so much about increased temperatures, but it is something that surely needs to be considered. Alta is a leader in the state in recognizing the threat of global warming, but the rest of the state’s snow resorts have a world of improvement to make. It is the responsibility of snow enthusiasts everywhere to push these resorts to make that improvement, “little by little.”

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