Winter Park emphasizes effort, not grade |

Winter Park emphasizes effort, not grade

Reid Armstrong
Sky-Hi Daily News
Winter Park, CO Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Winter Park Resort officials aren’t too concerned about receiving a “D” grade on a recent report card.

Calling it “speculative and outdated,” Winter Park Resort Planning Director Doug Laraby says he doesn’t put much stock in the grades handed out by the Ski Area Citizens Coalition last month in its annual Environmental Report Card.

A division of Colorado Wild, the SACC has been rating ski resorts across the western United States for the past decade on issues ranging from protecting wildlife habitat and sensitive watersheds to addressing global climate change and installing sound environmental policies and practices.

This year, Winter Park received only 99 of 230 possible points, for a total of 55.7 percent, placing it among the three least environmentally-friendly resorts in Colorado.

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Only Breckenridge and Copper Mountain rated worse.

At the top of Colorado’s list were three Aspen resorts: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. The three resorts received “A” grades, ranking them among the top 10 environmentally-friendly resorts in the western United States. Powderhorn was the only other Colorado ski area to receive an A.

Paul Joyce, ski area scorecard research director for Colorado Wild, said that Winter Park lost most of its points because of its 2005 Master Development Plan Revision, which includes possible expansion plans.

The master plan has long identified possible expansion to the west of Vasquez Ridge, even though the resort has no immediate plans to move into that area.

The 2005 master plan, which updates a similar 1985 plan, reduces the number of lifts and roads in the future expansion and eliminates future development at the base of Vasquez Mountain, Laraby said. But, the SACC did not credit the resort for reducing its overall impact with the revisions, Laraby said.

The report card also docks Winter Park all eight possible points for road building even though the resort hasn’t built a new road since 2004, Laraby said.

“When the resort built its two newest lifts, it built no new roads,” Laraby said. “That’s almost unheard of.”

The 2005 plan further reduces the need for new roads by putting in a gondola to get people to Vasquez Mountain, Laraby said.

Much of the recent work on the mountain, from logging operations to the installation of the Eagle Wind Lift, was completed using a helicopter to reduce impact, Laraby said. The resort won the 2007 Silver Eagle Award from Clif Bar for its efforts to reduce visual impact during a recent project in which crews dug a 2,300 foot trench and laid wire by hand, replacing a layer top soil and tundra plants that were carefully removed prior to trenching.

Winter Park Resort also conducted a land swap recently with the Forest Service, trading a heavily impacted Forest Service parcel near the Moffat Tunnel for a pristine piece of resort-owned property elsewhere.

SACC gave the resort seven out of 24 points for water conservation, primarily due to its master plan, which identifies some 225 acres of future snowmaking. But, Laraby said the report doesn’t credit the resort for replacing snowmaking pumps this year to reduce electricity and conserve water.

To offset its energy consumption, the resort purchases wind credits to run two of its newest lifts, Eagle Wind and the Super Gauge Express. More energy savings are found through the resort’s computer program “Area Net,” which shuts down accessory buildings when they are not being used and fires them back up several hours before the ski day begins, Laraby said.

The resort replaced some 95 percent of its incandescent lightbulbs in the base area with florescent fixtures this year. Yet, it received only three of 14 possible points for energy efficiency.

The resort has employee recycling programs, uses biodegradable products in its laundry areas, uses only washable utensils and serving ware in its dining rooms and offers employees and guests the opportunity to carpool using public transportation, which it largely funds every year, Laraby said. Yet it received less than half of the possible points in these categories.

Joyce said that while Winter Park Resort is making some efforts to be ‘green,’ Colorado Wild places the greatest emphasis on any plans that might reduce wildlife habitat.

The resort earned only 15 of 50 possible points for maintaining development within currently disturbed lands and maintaining ski terrain within the existing footprint. Joyce added that the resort never replied to the SACC’s questionaire.

Laraby said Winter Park will continue efforts to reduce its impact on the environment and to protect the wildlife and wilderness around it, but it won’t be because of a bad grade on this report card.

To see the full report go to

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