Eco-Initiatives

Ski resorts across the planet are making hundreds of different initiatives to fight climate change, many centred on reducing energy consumption or generating green electricity on site, but there are many others. The directory below lists some of these, sorted A-Z by type of initiative.

GREEN ENERGY PRODUCTION TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS

Bio-Gas

Treating sewage sludge can lead to the production of gas that can be converted into energy: biogas. This gas is derived from the biological decomposition of organic matter (sludge) in a place where there is little air (ie closed). Through anaerobic digestion, energy is recovered which allows the treatment plant to be more or less autonomous energy. Recovering biogas also stops odours and, more important for climate change, cuts emissions of methane, which are far more harmful than CO2. Biogas is composed of 50% methane.  Swiss ski resort Davos is one of several operating a Bio-gas plant heating buildings in the town.

Cow Power

Killington Resort in Vermont, USA is enrolled in the Cow Power program, a completely local form of renewable energy made in Vermont. Staying with Vermont tradition of buying local, the K-1 Express Gondola is powered solely by manure from local dairy farms. In the process, this reduces greenhouse emissions produced by cows and expands the use of the readily available, renewable resource in Vermont.

Geothermal Heating from Underground

Geothermal Heating from Underground is increasingly used by on-mountain buildings in ski resorts to provide CO2 neutral heat. The Rud-Alpe mountain restaurant and the staff accommodation at the Balmalp in Zug (Lech Zurs ski area) is one of many heated using geothermal heating.

Geothermal Heating From Water

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel heats its halls and suites using heat extracted from Lake St. Moritz, as does the neighbouring municipal Grevas School. The result: savings of around half a million litres of heating oil a year, and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 1,200 tons (a cut of 75%).

Green Electricity From Cheese Production Waste

Europe’s highest-altitude dairy, the Lataria Engiadinaisa (LESA) in the Swiss Engadin, sends whey left over from the cheese-making process to generate electricity. The liquid that the dairy produces – some 4,000 tons a year – is no longer transported to the lowlands for disposal but is taken to the SAX waste water treatment plant in Samedan/Bever, where it is used to generate some 280,000 kWh of electricity a year.

Green Electricity From Organic Waste

Three farmers from St. Moritz, Silvaplana and Sils have teamed up to offer a means of disposal for kitchen and restaurant refuse, green waste, manure and liquid manure in a modern, environmentally friendly manner – and at the same time to carry out and support projects in organic farming. Bio Energina AG’s first project was the construction of a round, 400-cubic-metre silo at the waste water treatment plant in Silvaplana / Surlej. The biogas facility produces around 35,000 kWh of electricity a year for some 150 to 170 households.

Kinetic Electricity from Ski Machinery

It is possible to recuperate kinetic energy from the rotation of pulleys on pylons on ski lifts. For example: the French ski resort of Les Gets has installed a kinetic energy recuperation system on their Les Planeys chairlift.

Solar Power

Solar power systems tend to work much more efficiently at higher altitudes than at ground level. Ever more ski areas have ever more solar power. In Zermatt photovoltaic panels located 3,800m (12,500 feet) above sea-level produce 80% more electricity than panels at sea level due to the clear air and extra light reflection from the surrounding environment.

Energy SavinG

Natural Air For Refrigeration

An American company has spotted the irony that many hotels and restaurants in cold areas use energy to power refrigeration inside warm buildings when it’s colder outside. In December of 2015, Arapahoe Basin was the latest to install a FreeAire system which uses simple sensors and circulation fans to monitor the temperature inside the cooler, as well as outside the building, and cycles cold, outside air into the cooler whenever temperatures allow. This saves energy by eliminating the need to use evaporator and condenser motors to cool air previously heated. By cycling cold, clean outside air, which is plentiful in Colorado at 10,800’, into the walk-in freezer the resort is able to run the cooler without using electricity (with the exception of a very small circulation fan) for about 220 days a year. By running the condenser so rarely they also avoid the need to run energy intensive defrost cycles for the machinery and have reduced wear and tear and associated regular maintenance drastically.

Heat Recovery

In 2007 a heat recovery system with concrete core activation was incorporated into the new section of the Alpenrosenbahn bottom lift station building when it was built in Austria’s Skiwelt area.  The administration building is heated in winter using the recovered waste heat from the pumping station of the snowmaking system and transformer station. Thanks to this system, 27.88 tonnes of carbon dioxide is saved every year.

Snowmaking Efficiency

Snowmaking has grown dramatically around the world over the past two decades as ski areas try to battle the impact of climate change and simultaneously meet modern demands for season-long top-to-bottom snow cover. On the one hand more snowmaking is generally a a bad thing for the environment, on the other rapid steps forward in technology means newer, bigger systems use much less energy than older, smaller systems …and many resorts are upgrading. For example conservation efforts have reduced Jiminy’s Peak’s (one of the world’s greenest ski areas) power consumption by 35% over the past 10 years. The biggest reduction from its many initiatives being thanks to a recent conversion of the resort’s entire snowmaking fleet to a new technology. This technology reduces the amount of compressed air by 50% while increasing snowmaking production by 62%.

Variable-Frequency Drives

Variable-frequency drive motors (VFDs) allow a higher percentage of the electricity coming in from the grid to be effectively used to drive the lift and generally use approximately 30% less electricity to run a lift than a traditional drive. For example most lifts at Breckenridge have variable-frequency drive motors, significantly reducing electricity use.

REPLACING FACILITIES WITH GREENER ALTERNATIVES

Introducing Electric Buses

A number of ski resorts have introduced hybrid or bio-diesel powered transport but several now have all electric minibuses circulating their resorts. For winter 2016/17 Saas Fee introduced electric buses that are zero-emission as the bus company uses renewable energy to recharge the batteries. For winter 2019-20 Val Thorens ski area in France introduced a self-driving electric shuttle bus service.

DESIGN TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS

Resort Design To Minimise Transportation Needs

Although ski resorts with high density building are sometimes criticise aesthetically, they are typically more efficient than low density developments . For example the layout of Tremblant ski resort in Quebec’s south side, commonly known as the pedestrian village, is characterized by a dense central core encouraging people to move around on foot. Furthermore, most of the hotels and residential developments are equipped with ski access or are served by a network of free shuttle buses. This organization of space reduces the need to use personal vehicles on site and contributes to greenhouse gas reduction. Compared to low density projects, high density projects also reduce the rate of deforestation per residential unit.

other initiatives

Creating Green Power Facilities to Offset Major Events

Staging major events can generate hundreds and sometimes thousands of tonnes of CO2 as athletes and fans arrive from around the world to take part. In recent years more big events have been carbon neutral. For example in 2017 Squaw Valley hosting what they made the first ever carbon neutral Audi FIS World Cup. The carbon footprint included all emissions related to hosting the event: all dedicated mountain operations, snowmaking, dedicated lifts and groomings, emissions from all athletes, coaches and FIS Officials’ travel, and accommodations/meals during the event. The total footprint was calculated to be 406 metric tons of CO2 and was verified by a third-party, Terrapass. This entire footprint will be offset over 16 years by a solar panel installation on the Squaw Kids building The solar project includes 52 panels and provides 32.2 megawatts annually.