Ski Corp. gets a 'C' on environment scorecard

Report criticized for having narrow focus

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- Visit the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition Web site at www.skiareacitizens.com/.

— The Steamboat Ski Area and the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition may never see eye to eye when it comes to grading the ski resort on its environmental performance.

SACC released its annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecards last week, and the Steamboat Ski Area was given a 'C,' with a 61.1 percent rating. Steamboat was 13th out of 20 ski areas graded in Colorado.

The report ranks ski areas according to dozens of criteria, including development, preservation of natural landscapes and alternative energy. SACC is sponsored or endorsed by environmental groups including Colorado Wild, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, The Wilderness Society and WildEarth Guardians, among others.

Loryn Kasten, spokeswoman for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said the report penalizes resorts for offering new services for guests.

"We see the scorecard as a flawed report because it penalizes resorts such as Steamboat for having plans to add amenities, and it rewards the resorts that remain status quo," she said.

Ski Corp. was graded down in a number of categories, but the largest was the 20-point deduction in the "Real Estate Development" category. SACC identified the large number of development and redevelopment projects at the base area and in downtown Steamboat as a reason for the low score. Steamboat also lost points for adding new snowmaking and for future expansion plans.

SACC, based in Durango, uses the scorecard to attempt to influence which resorts skiers visit. The report "cautiously encourages" skiers to visit Steamboat but encourages the company to improve its practices.

Kasten said Ski Corp. relies primarily on the National Ski Area Association's sustainable resorts report.

Kasten also pointed to the ski area's environmental initiatives and programs. Ski Corp. has an employee-driven environmental task force, purchases solar and wind energy certificates to power three of its chairlifts, recycled about 150 tons of materials last year, operates a fleet of shuttles to transport people from remote parking

lots and installed improved snowmaking systems to decrease water loss. Ski Corp. recently was recognized as a "Recycler of the Year" by Yampa Valley Recycles.

Ski Corp. officials have been critical of SACC's report in past years. In 2006, Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond wrote, "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."

In SACC's most recent report, Aspen and Buttermilk mountains earned the highest grades, both scoring more than 85 percent and earning an 'A.' Copper Mountain, also owned by Intrawest, the parent company of Ski Corp., was ranked the worst resort, with a score of 31.9 percent and a grade of 'F.'

Of the five resort companies compared in the report, Intrawest scored the lowest, with an average score of 47.3 percent for Steamboat, Copper and Winter Park Resort. Aspen Skiing Co. scored the highest, with a 79 percent average for its four resorts.

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