Many cross country (XC) ski areas operate in an environmentally-friendly manner, and some of these operators, who are exemplars using the most sustainable practices, are models of sustainability in the effort to combat climate change. The operators at these resorts practice what they preach such as: using renewable energy, protecting scenic values and wildlife habitats, practicing water/energy conservation, reducing waste and reusing products, designing and building facilities in an environmentally-sensitive manner, managing forest and vegetation properly, handling potentially hazardous waste properly, and educating clientele and staff about environmental awareness.
These sustainable practices are not typically million dollar investments but they are meaningful accomplishments and the information about many of their practices can be shared with hundreds of other XC ski areas across the US and Canada.
At Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, Colorado, a geothermal heating system is used throughout the resort. The system consists of glycol-filled pipes that have been installed in the Ranch's on-site lake. Heat is transferred to the glycol from the water, and then heated to 105 degrees by compressors in each building. The resort has also installed EPA-approved specially designed chimneys that minimize emissions from wood burning fireplaces and used recycled asphalt for paving. "We continue to make a concerted effort to work with local suppliers and businesses and reduce our carbon footprint at every level," said General Manager Sean Damery.
The White Grass Ski Touring Center in Canaan, WV has been awarded the WV Environmental Council's Green Entrepreneurs Award. The facility is heated with wood and uses about $6.66 worth of electricity a day. Environmental education is a key element at White Grass as there are regular outings in the WV Highlands Conservancy and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which they helped to establish.
In the northeast US, the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH upgraded an old micro-hydro system, which now supplies 80% of electric needs. They've also got plans to convert to a wood pellet heating system in the lodge and have converted more vans that tour up to the top of Mt. Washington to run on propane gas and installed an electric vehicle charging station, too.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in VT has incorporated sustainability in its mission statement to be carbon neutral. At Craftsbury Outdoor Center everything is net metered with 32kW on the solar trackers and 3,000 square feet of panels on the roof, supplying the Activity Center with close to 70kW. Between the two, that provides 63% of operation’s electricity and there is also solar thermal to provide summertime domestic hot water, which is supplemented with heat pumps.
Craftsbury has incorporated massive amounts of insulation into all of the new buildings, and locally sourced many of the wood products used in the building construction. The roof of the Activity Center is at R72 and the walls are R46. It also has composting toilets, a heat pump, and locally-sourced wood for paneling and recycled steel beams for support were incorporated in the construction. High efficiency wood gasifying boilers provides all of the heating and domestic hot water demands during the cooler months. They're tied into the 10 million BTUs of thermal storage in the form of 20,000 gallons of water. This storage system allows them to cogenerate with the snowmaking generator - providing electricity for the pumps and guns, and catching waste heat off the engine.
Sleepy Hollow Inn Ski & Bike Center in Huntington, VT they added 10 kwH of solar this summer and now has 50 kwH of solar net metering from its solar panel arrays to provide for electric needs that include power for a snowmaking system used to guarantee snow early in the season. A solar hot water system heats 50% of the hot water use at the inn and the lights on the ski trail have been converted to LED lights. Sleepy Hollow Proprietor Eli Enman commented, "By April, we're expecting to see that close to 100% of our total electricity would've been powered by solar energy and that includes our all-electric snowmaking system water and air pumps."
A sustainable Canadian resort that practices what it preaches is Nipika Mountain Resort in BC, which is off the public power grid. It uses solar panels to supply energy needs. The resort's furniture was built on site with wood from trees that were killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle.
Boundary Country Trekking on the Gunflint Trail in MN offsets the carbon produced on the Banadad Trail (such as snowmobile grooming) by investing in reforestation in the area. This is a planting estimated at 75,000 trees. Boundary Country Trekking is one of the few XC ski operations that have a sustainability statement and a comprehensive implementation plan. Another Minnesota XC ski area, Maplelag Resort in Callaway is an active tree farm where it has planted thousands of trees and has created more than 20 ponds to benefit wildlife there.
XCSkiResorts.com editor Roger Lohr, stated "For people who seek beautiful destinations to cross country ski and want to patronize businesses that fight climate change, the resorts in this select group are the places to visit.”