I wanted to address several issues that require clarification in Mr. Levy's Sept. 10 letter to the editor concerning Steamboat's environmental record and specifically the Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC) survey.
First of all, the SACC scorecard is not independently audited or verified by a third party, and thus lacks accountability. The scoring system is overly simplistic and flawed and does not recognize reductions in energy use or efficiency.
Under this survey, resorts are penalized for constructing employee housing. The more housing units built, the lower your score. It doesn't matter that employee housing reduces vehicular traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, resorts that reduce energy use in facilities (auditing, retrofitting, green building principles), lift operations (high-efficiency motors) and snowmaking (high-efficiency snow guns, compressors and real-time controls) receive no credit for doing so. Any resort that has expansion plans automatically flunks. The SACC survey is rolled out annually by Colorado Wild, its principal sponsor, and greeted with the credibility appropriate for anything this one-sided and biased.
Contrary to what the SACC implies, Steamboat has a creditable track record with its environmental programs.
- Alternative Energy: Steamboat was one of the first resorts to utilize alterative energy to power a lift. Today, two lifts are completely powered by alternative energy with Sunshine Express becoming the first lift in the country to use solar power, to our knowledge. The resort is currently investigating expansion of these renewable energy contracts. Through its use of alternative energies, Steamboat has achieved membership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership and Green-e Renewable Energy Certification Programs.
- Award-winning Recycling: During 2006 alone, nearly 150 tons of materials (glass, cardboard, aluminum, plastic, newspaper, office paper and computers) were recycled. In addition, through the Ski Corp. Environmental Granting Program, the resort has gone "off the mountain," donating funds, for example, to Yampa Valley Recycles to install community Pedestrian Recycling Units. Additionally, we recently announced a grant to Home Resource for $7,000 that Mr. Levy himself was on hand to accept.
- Water Conservation: The resort has saved significant quantities of water through the use of low flush toilets and auto shut-off faucets. A low flush toilet uses approximately 64 percent less water than a regular 4.5-gallon fixture. Decreased use also has resulted in reduced wastewater volume discharge. Currently, 2,500 feet of primary snowmaking pipe is being installed that is rated to last an average of 50 years - twice as long as existing pipe - and able to handle pressure upwards of 700 pounds per square inch. These pipes will essentially eliminate leaks, and Steamboat becomes one of the first resorts in the country to use this new technology.
- Energy Reduction: Significant strides have been made to reduce energy usage and CO2 emissions across the resort. The snowmaking system has converted to high-efficiency guns in many areas (tower guns on Heavenly Daze and Buddy's Run), compressors and sophisticated computer controls. The resort has transitioned to all four-stroke snowmobile models, uses newer, state-of-the-art snowcats and has replaced kitchen equipment in on-mountain restaurants that are all more energy efficient. Until recently, biofuels have not performed reliably in conditions of extreme cold. Annually, we investigate incorporating these fuels and will do so when their performance meets our operating needs.
- Resort Public Transit: SSRC operates a fleet of people movers to provide shuttle service from a variety of near-site parking facilities to the ski resort as well as employee housing. These efforts reduce the vehicle miles traveled by guests and employees by approximately 1.2 million miles last year as well as reduced emissions and traffic congestion. The resort's transportation system is free.
- Ski Corp. Employee Environmental Fund: Steamboat is one of a handful of resorts nationally to establish a significant granting program based on environmental needs. Over the past three years, the fund, which resides within the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, has given nearly $100,000 to various environmental projects throughout the Yampa Valley, including a record $55,028 in 2006.
We welcome close scrutiny of our environmental practices, but would prefer individuals have all the facts before casting judgment. I appreciate Mr. Levy's interest in these issues but wish he had picked up the phone to talk about this before penning his letter.
President, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.