In early September during President Obama's visit to Alaska, an op-ed piece in the Alaska Dispatch News was written by 4-time Olympian and 3-time World Cup Cross Country Ski Sprint Champion Kikkan Randall. Kikkan grew up in Anchorage and wanted to opine about a topic she feels deeply about - climate change.
"Cross-country skiing is my job, my passion and my life. I'm an Alaskan, and like many Alaskans I got my first skis around the same time I learned to walk. To me, snow is family. Skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and simply playing in the snow are how we form friendships as children, how we bond as families, how we connect as communities."
"This summer, hundreds of fires encompassing nearly five million acres burned across Alaska. People in the Lower 48 have a hard time believing this. They think of Eskimos and polar bears when they think of Alaska. Forest fires are for hot and dry places, for Colorado and Idaho and New Mexico. Increasingly, they are the norm up here, too. The patterns we knew as children are changing."
Randall recalled that as a child, she visited a local glacier remembering how cool it was to watch the glacier calve right there in front of her eyes. Thirty years later, that glacier is no longer visible from the visitor's center. Children visiting today can no longer experience that powerful natural force as she did.
In summer, Randall trains on the glacial snowfield above Girdwood, Alaska and has watched that glacier change before her eyes through the years. "Every year there are more crevasses, more runoff, more melting."
While racing on the World Cup circuit for nine years she's witnessed the global winter meltdown firsthand. "More than half of International Ski Federation (FIS) competitions are now held on machine-made snow. Even with snowmaking, however, national and international cross-country races are being canceled at an increasing rate because temperatures are not cold enough to make snow. You don't have to be a scientist to understand this.
Randall commented that Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the United States over the past 60 years. "We are on the front lines of change. Speak to the residents of Kotzebue or Kivalina about thawing permafrost, (which is especially problematic as it'll release toxic methane from lake bottoms), or the disappearance of sea ice and storm surges making relocation of all the residents an almost certainty."
During his visit, President Obama talked to locals when he traveled to Alaska and became the first sitting president to ever visit the Arctic Circle. He saw the impacts of climate change for himself. Randall hopes that Obama's trip to Alaska pushes him to make climate action a part of his legacy.
Obama had already begun to act with the Clean Power Plan announced in early August to begin cleaning up the nation's power plants, which are the source of 40% of American carbon emissions. Alaskan Senator Murkowski lobbied successfully to have Alaska exempted from the plan, with which every other state must comply.
Randall feels that Alaska should lead by example, not seek exemptions from climate action. "In Alaska, the replacement costs of public infrastructure from climate change could be as much as $6.1 billion over the next 20 years, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will cost $125 million to relocate just one of the many villages impacted by rising sea levels. And the area burned by wildfires in Alaska is projected to double by mid-century and to triple by the end of the century."
"The social costs will be even greater. Native American culture, entire villages and ancestral hunting and fishing grounds, could be lost forever." Randall calls on Alaskans to show support for the Clean Power Plan and climate action.
Kikkan Randall has spent her life nurturing speed and she urges everyone to act fast to safeguard snow and winter and Alaska. "We must harness our collective power as citizens to make change. It's time to fly, to go fast."
Photo: Kikkan Randall Victory lap; US Ski Team
Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort located in the heart of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts just announced the construction launch of a 2.3 megawatt community solar facility located on 12 acres of the ski area and resort's property, owned and operated by nexamp. Renewable energy is not new to the resort – back in 2007 it was the first ski area in North America to generate power from its own GE 1.5 MW wind turbine.
The solar project, which is expected to come online this fall, significantly expands Jiminy Peak's renewable energy program, while extending the environmental and cost-saving benefits of solar to up to 200 neighboring homes and small businesses. By adding the new solar power facility to Jiminy Peak's existing wind turbine, 75 kWh cogeneration unit, and extensive conservation efforts, the resort estimates it will be able to offset 90% of its total energy needs from local renewable resources, making Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort one of the greenest energy resorts of its kind in the nation.
All power generated by the new 7,500-module solar facility will be exported to the grid. Resort president Tyler Fairbank said, "We then receive credits in return. Half the net metering credits will be utilized by Jiminy Peak about 1.15 MW, the balance by individual homeowners in the local area, thus reducing their cost by an estimated 15 percent. "The resort uses all the power generated by the wind turbine and has been doing so since its installation in 2007. We receive net metering credits from the utility for every electron we pump onto the grid…and we're saving more than $500,000 through all our renewable and conservation efforts each year."
The resort has upgraded to more efficient lighting and programmable thermostats in the lodges and is in the process of more than doubling the energy efficiency of the lights used on the slopes for night skiing. Using the heat from 2 snowmaking compressors to heat 34,000 square feet of space in 3 Village Center buildings avoids the need of an equivalent of 63,800 kWh.
Jiminy averages 425 acre feet of snow per winter using machine-made snow. Nine years ago the snowmaking system's old technology would have required 4,566,100 kWh versus 2,661,400 today. The annual savings is 41.7% in energy or 1,903,300 kWh.
Waste oil is taken from snowmaking compressors, grooming machines, and all vehicles to heat the Mountain Operations building using approximately 200 gallons of waste oil per year and the process avoids the storage and disposal of old used oil. Jiminy Peak installed a cogeneration unit in the Country Inn. The unit uses propane gas that powers a turbine that in turn produces hot water for use throughout the Inn. This hot water also provides the heating source for the central core of the building that includes the year-round outdoor pool, hot tubs, and John Harvard's Restaurant & Brewery, too. A by-product of the cogeneration turbines operation is the production of electricity producing 400,000 kWh per year all of which is consumed on the property.
The ski area slope grooming fleet was replaced with the Pisten Bully that uses approximately 30% of fuel consumed by the old fleet due to increased fuel efficiency. The towel and sheet program in the lodge rooms save about 25,000 gallons of water a year by only washing the sheets and towels when requested by guests staying for more than one night. They've eliminated the use of toxic cleaning agents and only use green, biodegradable solvents and cleaners. Conversion to waterless urinals in bathrooms of several buildings and at JJ's Lodge saves 40,000 gallons of water per urinal.
Jiminy Peak won the Golden Eagle Award from the National Ski Areas Association for Overall Environmental Excellence in 2008 for construction of the wind turbine and a Silver Eagle Award from SKI/Skiing Magazine for Fish & Wildlife Habitat Protection in 1994. But awards are not why Jiminy Peak Resorts conserves and invests in renewable energy. Fairbank reflected, "Conservation is practiced every day at Jiminy Peak. It's part of our corporate DNA. We have an in-house energy management team that conducts an on-going and aggressive program to help us to identify and curtail energy waste and research ways to source 100 percent of our energy from renewable resources. They are constantly evaluating opportunities for savings. Our renewable efforts have come from facilities we've built and we're striving for 100 percent, local, onsite-generated renewable resources." Photos: Solar array depiction and wind turbine at Jiminy Peak.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont announced the opening of a new facility to house it's Touring Center, as well as a café, fitness room, waxing room, meeting space and more. This structure was built to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, using energy-saving designs and local materials wherever possible.
The Craftsbury facility has 3,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, which will be set up for net metering (selling electric power to the energy company when possible), so that the facility will have net-zero annual electricity usage. The building structure incorporates locally-sourced wood for paneling and recycled steel beams for support.
The locker rooms feature composting toilets, as well as low-flow water fixtures, timed showers, and hand-dryers to minimize paper towel waste. The heating system will incorporate waste heat from the snowmaking system along with a high-efficiency wood boiler, supplemented with solar thermal and a heat pump as needed. An electric charging station will be installed near the building in the future for electric vehicles.
The Craftsbury Outdoor Center mission includes the use and teaching of sustainable practices. In 2004, Craftsbury Outdoor Center joined the Green Hotels program and its Cedar Lodge was designated as green by the organization. In 2010, eight tracking solar arrays were installed on site at the center yielding about 45,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually offsetting about 35% of the center's electric use. The new building furthers Craftsbury Outdoor Center on its quest to become a steward of environmentally-friendly practices.
This summer Vermont ski resorts are investing nearly $15 million to upgrade their snowmaking equipment, thanks in part to an innovative rebate offer from Efficiency Vermont. Efficiency Vermont's Great Snow Gun Roundup supports the purchase of approximately 2,300 new low energy snow guns for the upcoming season, and in return the resorts will donate 1,800 older model snow guns to scrap. The snow gun exchange program is expected to help the state's ski industry reduce carbon emissions and save $2 million a year in energy costs.
Jim Merriam, executive director of Efficiency Vermont, said he hopes to replace 3,000 older snow guns with ones that are 85 to 90 percent more efficient. Funding for the program comes from the surcharge utility customers in the state pay to support Efficiency Vermont. While some may balk at having to subsidize snowmaking upgrades for private ski resorts, Merriam said the energy savings will benefit everyone, since we all share the same power grid.
Efficiency Vermont said they counted 3,000 -3,300 older technology guns at the beginning of the summer, and about 1,800 -2,000 of those scrapped. The estimated annual energy savings from this swap is equivalent to saving enough electricity to supply approximately 1,500 homes for one full year, and enough diesel saved to heat 340 homes annually. These new guns are not only saving tons of energy for resorts, which will allow them to rely on less power and lower emissions, but they will also create better quality snow surfaces and enable resorts to blow snow at higher temperatures, extending the ski season for winter revelers everywhere.
"An industry-wide upgrade in snowmaking efficiency of this magnitude has never been seen before," said Parker Riehle, Vermont Ski Areas Association President. "We are very proud of our partnership with Efficiency Vermont and that our resorts are leading the way in switching to low energy technology. To help ski areas determine the efficient snow guns that would best meet their needs, Efficiency Vermont engineers conducted side-by-side testing of fifteen different models, tracking data on their air, water, energy consumption, and overall performance. Modern, energy efficient snow guns require up to 85% less energy to operate than older snow gun models, and the new snow guns being installed this year represent the most advanced.
Efficiency Vermont has also pledged to donate proceeds from the scrapped metal of old snow guns to Ski Vermont's Learn to Turn program, which encourages people to embrace winter and try skiing through Learn to Ski month, the Fifth Grade Passport, and Bring a Friend challenge.
Follow the progress of Vermont's Great Snow Gun Roundup via #VTSnowUpgrade. Ski Vermont (Vermont Ski Areas Association) serves its 20 Alpine and 31 Nordic member resorts in three major areas: Governmental Affairs, Marketing and Public Affairs.
Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont's environment. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit the site. Photo: Snow guns at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT
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, have created a collective of the XC ski areas called "Cross Country Skiing Against Climate Change." These resorts are models of sustainability and 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 collective will disseminate information about many of their practices to 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 Maine Huts & Trails organization has built eco-lodges that are off the power grid with solar energy, wood fired heat, and composting toilet systems. Stump Sprouts Guest Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center in Hawley, MA produces more electricity than it consumes with its solar panels, and the lumber for buildings, furniture, and firewood is harvested on the property. They try to serve as much locally grown food as possible and grow most of their own produce and all food waste is composted. Lloyd Crawford of Stump Sprouts stated, "We use half the fuel that we used 10 years ago after upgrades to our vehicles and equipment." 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. They use 8 tracking solar panels for 35% of their electricity, highly efficient wood-fired boilers for heating, and a solar hot water system. Starting this winter, the waste heat from their snowmaking system generator will help to heat several buildings including one of the most sustainably designed facilities that just opened in October 2014. The new sustainable touring center building has 3,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, which will be set up for net metering. 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. Sleepy Hollow Inn Ski & Bike Center in Huntington, VT gets a total of 32 kW of power from 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 are being converted to LED lights. Sleepy Hollow Proprietor Eli Enman commented, "By the end of the year, we're looking forward to seeing 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 is the coordinator for the collective, who stated "For people who seek beautiful destinations to cross country ski and want to patronize businesses that fight climate change, the resorts in this collective are the places to visit. The Cross Country Skiing Against Climate Change collective will disseminate information about sustainable practices to other XC ski areas across North America in an effort to share ideas and stand as an industry against global warming, which threatens many of the XC ski areas that exist today."
Andy Newell, a US Ski Team Nordic ski racer has competed in three Olympic Games from Torino, Italy to Sochi, Russia experiencing different venues over the years, seasons with high snow pack and others with none, and he's seen change both in climate and in attitude. Newell shared his reflections of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia with the Green Energy Times last spring.
Newell questions the extreme measures host nations and our world leaders are willing to go to not only to capitalize on the Olympics but, more important, turn a blind eye to our changing climate. His first trip to Sochi was a year and a half before the Games when he was introduced to the beautiful snow covered peaks in one of Russia's largest national parks. Fast-forward 16 months and several billion dollars later and Newell reported that there were hastily built resort towns, huge unfinished hotels, and thousands of acres of clear-cut forest and polluted waterways.
Newell remembered, "Upon arrival at the Olympics we were bussed to one of the six gondolas to access the Nordic and biathlon stadiums. Of course everyone was giddy with nerves and excitement over the upcoming competitions, but as we crept higher up the 8,000-foot peak to where the Endurance Village was located, we could get a true vision of the destruction below."
"A bad snow year had left the valley floor brown and muddy, highlighting all the construction debris. Looking across to the mountainside where the alpine and snowboarding events were to take place, we saw massive swaths of hillside clear cut to accommodate the new trails and lift towers of a future alpine resort. All of this was created to capitalize on the Olympics and to create what was envisioned as Russia's next big tourist destination, but at what cost?"
The underlying theme is that Newell feels we should expect more from our world leaders and the individuals accountable for these decisions. Why was this untouched land chosen for the Games? Why can't world leaders work together to find methods to take the environment into account?
The Sochi situation led Newell to start the organization Athletes for Action to urgently voice the need for change. Before the Games, Newell collected signatures from Olympic competitors urging world leaders to recognize climate change and work together toward solutions.
Newell feels that it is his responsibility and he wants to attract other outdoor enthusiasts who witness these changes, to voice concerns and put pressure on leaders. He'd like to raise awareness and, most important, encourage more climate-friendly decisions and legislation from government officials. Andy Newell has been part of the US Ski Team for 10 years and earned a spot on the 2006, 2010 and 2014 US Olympic Teams. He splits his time between southern VT and Park City, UT and has top five finishes at the World Championship and World Cup competitions.
Andy Newell, US Ski Team and Olympic competitor in cross country skiing created "Athletes for Action" before he set off for the Sochi Olympics. The idea was to coordinate athletes to encourage definitive government action on climate change. "We're expecting more out of Washington and from world leaders," he commented.
Newell recently was joined by fellow Olympian Alex Deibold, (snowboardcross bronze medalist from Vermont) on a visit to the US State Department to speak with the US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern and he wants to work with other athletes from around the world and have them address the leaders in their countries, too.
Newell recognizes that as a world-class athlete who travels around the world to compete, his carbon footprint is probably larger than most but he opined, "We compete outdoors every day, so we're in tune with the environment and I feel that it's our responsibility to speak up." Before the Olympics, Newell rallied 105 athletes from the US and other countries to sign a letter to world leaders calling them to action on climate change.
After returning from Sochi, other Olympic cross country skiers from Vermont recently joined the cause including biathletes Hannah Dreissigacker and Susan Dunklee and Nordic racers Liz Stephen and Ida Sargent. They saw poor snow conditions while racing in Europe at many races last winter. The Olympians recently spoke with VTDigger.com about their views on climate change.
Dreissigacker commented, "We need to put a price on carbon emissions." Liz Stephen said that the majority of her races this year were on narrow tracks on machine-made snow that was slushy and colored brown with rocks and dirt. While it is true that Vermont had much better snow conditions last winter compared to Europe, Sargent said that Vermont should model Europe's action on carbon emissions such as driving smaller cars, using public transportation, and installing rooftop solar panels. She also supports the Kingdom Community Wind Project in Lowell, VT, a project that has stirred an emotional debate on the state's energy future.
Biathlete Susan Dunklee voiced her concern about the Montreal-Portland Pipeline, which brings crude oil from South Portland, ME to Montreal and could be reversed to transport heavy Canadian crude oil. "We're enabling a system that's depending on fossil fuels and we need to be finding more creative solutions."
Newell would like to welcome athletes from the summer Olympics and non-Olympic athletes such as NFL and MLB players to participate in Athletes for Action. "I'd like to see it grow to where athletes from all disciplines and multiple countries are involved."
Burton Snowboards in Burlington, VT is working to make snowboarding sustainable well into the future. Burton is the dominant snowboard product company, and as such this commitment to sustainability can be an example for other businesses in the snow sports world to emulate.
The environmental focus is generally known in the world of business where each decision takes root with an eco-influence. Since 2008, Burton has focused on improving not just the use of sustainable materials, but the process as a whole. From the production of snowboards and outerwear to luggage and apparel, Burton incorporates the sustainable perspective everywhere possible.
In 2012, Burton unveiled an enhanced manufacturing code of conduct and an extensive restricted substances list associated with Burton's finished goods factories and key sub-suppliers. Audits of Burton suppliers are now being conducted to evaluate and address Burton's social/environmental compliance with applicable global regulations and industry best practices. A social compliance policy is in place that ensures contracted factories uphold Burton's standards and meet targets for continuous improvement and supplier contract clauses deal directly with working conditions.
Ali Kenney, Burton's Global Sustainability Director commented "We're seeing great progress throughout our supply chains. We've been able to reduce packaging dramatically, we have factories all over the world collaborating with us on an environmental facilities assessment, and we even have factories coming to us with new ideas around sustainability."
An employee-run environmental committee named EPIC (Environmental Protection, Integrity, Conservation) focuses on fun ways to improve the company's impact on the environment.
Burton has placed in the top two spots in the Vermont alternative-commuting challenge and has received the silver ranking Bicycle Friendly Business by a national bicycle organization. The facility has showers, a secure bike shelter called "The Wheelhouse" (in photo) and 15 loaner bikes for anyone to use around town. Community-building experiences like free bagels for alternative commuters, critical mass group rides to work, and an annual competition for the most creative commute encourage green commuting. A partnership with the local transportation agency offers free bus passes to all employees. Carpoolers get preferred parking with the slogan "Two or more, closer to the door. Carpool, fool."
There are 18 composting and recycling stations throughout Burton's headquarters and a group sorts through all of it to determine the progress toward zero waste and educate employees. Organic vegetable plots are available on site for employees, who want space to grow their own. This space has more than 6% of all employees tending plots.
In the mornings, Burton employees are offered complimentary organic fruit from a local food co-op and organic coffee and espresso from a Vermont coffee roaster. They've also partnered with a local company that supplies locally made organic hand soaps to employees.
Other social mores at the company include bringing dogs to work, casual dress and flex Fridays in the summer (they get to leave at noon!), and a free pass to a local mountain for unlimited snowboarding. Burton also offers fitness membership reimbursements to make staying healthy affordable.
Burton's Women's Leadership Initiative programs help to attract, retain, and promote women, increasing the number of women in leadership and influential positions throughout the organization. There are educational and social events for women throughout the year, like Learn to Surf outings, Women's Ride Days, Learn to Skate Nights, and career development workshops.
Kinda makes you want to work there, eh?
In 2008, an effort to create software was undertaken by a group of companies representing about 100 apparel brands to measure environmental impact of products from "cradle to grave" or more explicitly, from raw material to garbage dump.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, this so-called Eco Index was intended to perform similar to the Energy Star rating of appliances. The Eco Index concept was officially announced in August 2010 at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. It provided comparative perspectives of brands with relation to environmental and human rights issues. Another way of looking at it is as a sustainability barometer for operations or a litmus test for product greenness.
Some of the companies involved in this effort included Nike, Levi Strauss, Target, Adidas, Timberland, Columbia, and Patagonia. Most consumers are not aware of factors involved with the apparel business such as the toxic chemicals used for leather tanning, crude oil used in the manufacture of synthetic fabrics, incredibly low wages and no benefits for foreign workers, and excessive shipping distances for manufacturing various aspects of apparel. In 2008, Americans discarded 12.4 million tons of textiles, up from 1.8 million tons in 1960.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was formed in 2011 and the Higg Index 1.0 was developed and launched in July 2012 as primarily an indicator based tool for apparel that enables companies to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices. The Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance and drive behavior for improvement. It is based largely on the Eco Index and Nike's Apparel Environmental Design Tool, however it has been significantly enhanced through a pilot testing period.
The Higg Index 1.0 is a tool to help organizations standardize how they measure and evaluate environmental performance of apparel products across the supply chain at the brand, product and facility levels. It enables rapid learning through identification of environmental sustainability hot spots and improvement opportunities and it's a starting point of engagement, education, and collaboration among stakeholders in advance of more rigorous assessment efforts.
The Higg Index 1.0 will help both small and large companies to identify challenges and capture on-going improvement. It targets a spectrum of performance that allows beginners and leaders in environmental sustainability, regardless of company size, to identify opportunities. The Eco Index software provided a self-reported score of points on various questions regarding raw material, production, shipping, and disposal. A brand could score points with for example, a wastewater purifying system, a recycling program, good labor standards, less bulky packaging, and even washing in cold instead of hot water. There were estimations involved in the scoring system and proof was not required. In the future, the Higg Index is intended to provide more quantitative feedback, weighting of factors, and verification of the details. It will also be extended to footwear and equipment businesses.
This industry index concept is a beginning but we do not know how much of a motivational factor that it may become in the eyes of consumers. It is admirable that competitors have come together to work on this concept and many of the participating companies have previously undergone an internal analysis of these issues. Environmental issues are driving some product design these days such as printed info on garments instead of separate tags and using less or recycled packaging. And not surprisingly, many of the applicable design ideas save processing costs, too. If such a self-analysis helps companies to change and vie for a higher score, we all will win.
Recently, a gentleman from Quebec drove his 2012 Ford Focus Electric car up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the summit of the Northeast’s highest peak. This was the first mass produced all electric vehicle to reach the peak taking the winding 8-mile road with an average grade of 12%.
Sylvain Juteau of Three Rivers, Quebec drove the car 800 miles from his home town to a vacation in Maine and then decided to take the car to the summit of nearby Mt. Washington, located in Pinkham Notch, NH. He commented, “You can easily get 100,000 miles from your batteries and brake pads and the real time data you get from the car teaches you to drive more intelligently while the brakes regenerate the battery when you slow down.”
The car requires 2.5 hours to charge and can run on the charge for about 100 miles. Juteau used about half of his available charge on the way up and he recovered and recharged on the way down the mountain road. The auto road is one of the nation’s oldest man-made attractions opening in 1861. In fact, the first automobile that climbed the road in 1899 was a Stanley Steamer driven by Freelon O. Stanley himself. For info about the auto road check www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com
This story brought back memories of my first ride in a hybrid Toyota Prius in 2001with a friend, who was a newly elected official in Colorado. One of the perks of his political position was a vehicle to use and my friend felt compelled to request a hybrid car instead of a 4-wheel drive that the other officials had always requested. Over the years, this memory encouraged me to often suggest that all government automobile purchases should be electric vehicles and while the government might put its money where its mouth should be, all public buildings should have roof top solar collectors, too. Can you imagine what this level of purchases would do for these products or how it could lead the way to fight climate change?
Instead, even though there were 200,000 of the Toyota Prius sold in 2012, it was announced that General Motors has idled the assembly plant, which manufactures the electric Chevy Volt because they’ve sold less than half of their annual projection (13,500 cars sold and 40,000 projected sales). The electric Nissan Leaf had sold 4,288 in 2012 through August. And the Ford Focus Electric vehicle, the car that made it to the top of Mt. Washington had sold only 169 (in the USA). Think about the number of vehicles if every level of government (town, city, county, state, Federal) was mandated to purchase electric vehicles starting this year; hmmm, that’s a big number.
Electric Vehicle Charging Station Installed on Auto Road
In an August 2013 followup to the above story, the Mt. Washington Auto Road has installed the first ever Electric Vehicle Charging Station. Less than 24 hours later, the all electric vehicle, a Tesla S Model, pulled in for a charge. The Auto Road does not "charge for a charge", though a donation slot is there for those so inclined. Fifteen more Teslas from the New England chapter of the Tesla Car Club arrived for a drive to the summit.
Auto Road GM Howie Wemyss decided this was the year to have the Clipper Creek CS 90 charger installed. "Considering that we are hosting the Mt. Washington Auto Road Alt Energy Summit event here on September 14 and 15, there couldn't be a better time to make this kind of energy available onsite," Wemyss noted. "We are looking at adding an electric vehicle to our line-up sometime this year and have been evaluating various alternative fuel sources for our stages, as well," Wemyss added. The Auto Road currently derives about 80% of the energy used for the base building operations from an onsite hydro power source.
Daniel Einspanjer, a Tesla S model owner and organizer of the group's gathering commented, "The trip up and down the mountain was as breath-taking as always and everyone enjoyed it. As expected, the trip down was excellent. The cars could not have been built better for descending a mountain. Stable, low to the ground, and aerodynamic, the cars handle wonderfully on the road. Additionally, the regenerative braking means that you don't have to worry about a straining engine or overheating brakes as the car gracefully glides down at a comfortable and safe speed requiring only occasional touches of the brakes at the hairpin turns."
Perhaps even more impressive than the view and drive down was the energy consumption data: "The 8 mile long and 4,600 feet high ascent consumes somewhere between 12 and 14 kW of energy (about 40 to 45 miles of rated range), while the descent reclaims between 5 and 7 kW of energy (about 20 to 23 miles of rated range) through regenerative braking. There are currently more than 13,000 Teslas on the road in the US" Einspanjer noted.
Erik Sports, a Nordic and snowshoe equipment supplier for more than three decades decided to increase company sustainability by addressing building power and heating needs in its Tranquility, NJ location. The company is most known for the White Woods brand of Nordic and snowshoe products.
Company president, Michael Messler spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about the renovation projects including an upgrade to plant lighting, retrofitting the boiler, and solar panel installation for thermal and photovoltaic purposes. These projects brought both environmental and financial advantages to the company's operation.
The lighting upgrade provides improved light and it will result in 65-70% in energy savings, A wood boiler replaced the oil-powered heating system. This system will be integrated with a solar thermal unit so that the wood will be used only as a backup. These undertakings and investments make Erik Sports one of the most sustainable product companies in the business.
Swix Sports USA based in Haverhill, MA has a new facility that features high efficiency heating systems, motion-controlled lighting throughout the warehouse, and a self-regulated low flow water system. The solar array on the roof covers the 53,000 square foot warehouse sending about 343,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year back to the grid. The $1.5 million solar project was thanks to an agreement with Leewood Realty and it displaces more than 600,000 pounds of CO2 and could provide electricity for 34 homes for a year.
Fischer Ski Company has had a biomass CHP plant for heat in its Austrian manufacturing facility since 2001. Special water treatment filter systems have achieved a reduction of 40% in the use of industrial water. A Fischer ski production plant in the Ukraine was changed to 100% renewable energy in 2009, but details were not available in the company information about the plant. In the years 2001-2010, Fischer operations have lowered carbon emissions by 84.7%.
Madshus, a brand within the K2 Skis company has introduced some cross country ski boots in its line that do not incorporate PVC (poly-vinyl chloride), which is claimed to be harmful to the environment. PVC is a material that is often used in boot soles.
More green efforts accomplished by product suppliers will be posted in the Green Room as they become available.
One of the most eco-oriented resorts in the world is Nipika Mountain Resort in Canada's Kootenay National Park near Invermere, British Columbia. Proprietor Lyle Wilson told XCSkiResorts.com, "We operate in non-consumptive ways and when people drive here and park their cars, we remind them to keep their car keys in an obvious place so they can remember them because while they're here, they'll forget about their cars all together." The resort has 13 buildings including a lodge, cabins, and other facilties that are off the power grid.
The car-free holiday at Nipika Mountain Resort is an extravaganza of 100% self-propelled nonmotorized recreational activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, mountain biking, paddling, hiking, ice skating, and sledding. The resort has 13 buildings that were mostly hand-built using timber from trees that grew within 100 meters of the site. Even the furniture in the lodge and cabins was built in the resort's woodworking shop, much of it by hand. The pine beetle infestation has killed many trees in the area, but it has also supplied plenty of wood so there was no need to use live trees for the construction.
Nipika Mountain Resort powered by 20 solar panels, which produce 3,500 amp hours stored in batteries. The energy transforms from the battery power to AC using inverters for electricity. There are few appliances (no TV or phones) at Nipika and Wilson proudly asserts that the entire resort uses one third of an average family house in the city.
The facilities are heated with a central wood boiler that sends hot water to radiant floor piping and a heat exchanger tank to keep the lodge and each cabin warm. And there are wood stoves and a propane-based backup system to assure comfort at the resort.
Nipika has an organic vegetable garden to grow mostly root crops. And an older grooming machine is employed to maintain the trails, which has a smaller engine and saves fuel compared to current snowcat groomers. Wilson is investigating the use of biodiesel fuel for the groomer, too. The staff works to enhance the wildlife habitat on the property and there is an interpretive cabin that is used as a learning center about nature and history in the surrounding area.
So if you want to experience a highly sustainable operation in action situated in a vast wilderness playground, visit Nipika Mountain Resort.
The recent news about the impacts of climate change on the snow sports industry is frankly not news to those in the cross country ski world. While a small segment of the $12.2 billion snow sports business, the cross country ski world has been vulnerable to the vagaries of Mother Nature since its inception (commercial cross country ski areas in the US began in the late sixties, but cross country skiing dates back to drawings on cave walls in 4,000 BC).
The report called Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States, was commissioned by Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with scientists at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The study results tie specific climate data to hard numbers relating to projected business losses for the snow sports industry and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Professional skiers and snowboarders went with POW to Washington last year to lobby Congress to act on legislation to curb climate change and they painted a "clear picture" of how warmer weather is impacting winter sports. Senators from both sides thanked POW and the athletes for their view but they said they needed to know about the economic impact in their states before they could think about climate legislation. So POW joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council to place a value on winter and the data shows that winter tourism is a $12.2 billion industry in 38 states. For the 2009-10 winter season New York state alone had a winter tourism industry that supported more than 14,000 jobs and generated $846 million.
Jeremy Jones, founder of the POW organization is scheduled to attend and be recognized as a "Champion of Change" at a White House ceremony on April 11, 2013. A letter signed by 75 of the top snow sports athletes including World Champion Cross Country Ski Sprinter Kikkan Randall, will be handed to President Obama at the ceremony. The letter references the data in the report and asks the President to take action on climate, on behalf of all of us who love and work in snow sports. It'll be a powerful statement from the snow sports community, delivered by our sports icons.
The report based on University of New Hampshire research claimed that the alpine ski industry draws $1 billion less revenue during a poor snow season than it does during a good one and such a business downturn translates to a loss of between 13,000 to 27,000 jobs. Of course, the alpine ski business deploys machine-made snow, so only cold temperatures are needed to cover the slopes with snow. But the rise in temperatures can impact snowmaking opportunities thus cutting the depth of the snow and the length of the ski season. With cross country ski areas the lack of snow (particularly if it rains when it's not cold enough) can kill prime segments of the ski season such as the holiday period or key weekends. Fewer than 40 commercial cross country ski resorts in North America use snowmaking machines to cover trails; see article at Snowmaking at XC Ski Resorts Becomes Imperative.
“The industry hasn’t done a good job on educating leaders on the raw science and hasn’t made enough of a public statement on climate,” Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability at the Aspen Skiing Company resort area in Colorado told the New York Times. “It needs to ramp that up radically in the same way that the insurance industry has recognized climate change as an existential threat.”
NSAA, the ski area association in the USA stated that it adopted its Climate Change policy in 2002 that includes a three- pronged strategy in fighting climate change: reduce, educate, and advocate. Moreover, ski areas have been weighing in on energy and climate legislation in Washington for more than a decade.
NSAA also launched a “Climate Challenge” program two years ago, through which participating resorts inventory their green house gas emissions, set targets for reduction, reduce their carbon footprint and take other measures. At this point, while the alpine ski industry can "weather" the challenge with snowmaking, the cross country ski industry and snowmobile industry are more susceptible to climate change, and they need some action to begin turning things around.