Sarah Jones: The big picture

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Last week, the Steamboat Today’s editorial board, in response to a poor environmental rating Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. received from the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, cited a Yampa Valley Sustainability Council blog post. Our intention in that blog was to highlight the hard work of select individuals or departments at Ski Corp. toward sustainability. YVSC did not offer an opinion regarding Ski Corp.’s ranking or real achievements relative to other ski areas. Now that the issue is coming to a close, we need to remember that Ski Corp. is just one business in the entire resort community of Steamboat Springs. And it seems an appropriate time to disclose how our community at large is doing on the sustainability front relative to other ski towns.

YVSC has recently completed a comprehensive review of energy/sustainability plans prepared by Colorado Association of Ski Towns communities in an attempt to see where Steamboat sits. Unfortunately, we found that Steamboat and Fraser/Winter Park are quite literally the last two ski communities in Colorado that have yet to adopt a formal written community-wide energy reduction policy or sustainability resolution. These policies in other Colorado Association of Ski Towns communities include measurable goals and participation from public and private sectors, the school districts and local utilities. These goals are applied to residential, commercial and industrial buildings and include robust rebate programs, community renewable energy projects and revolving public funds to support progress. Many also are moving quickly toward a transportation agenda, including paving the way for compressed natural gas municipal fleets and charging stations for the growing number of electric vehicles.

Steamboat has always done things our own way, and we appreciate that unique character. But there are greater things at stake. Ski towns in Colorado are recognizing the obvious benefits of cost reduction and control through energy savings. Over time, these savings allow the cost of living to remain stable and low for local residents. Saving in energy costs also finds its way into more affordable food, lodging and lift ticket prices for visitors. Energy savings offer more predictable and declining costs for public and private entities, helping curb the cyclical “bust” periods that come with recessions or poor snow years. Finally, homes that have made energy efficiency upgrades or installed renewable energy retain their value and are more desirable than those without. In short, Steamboat Springs needs to adopt a community-wide energy policy, not necessarily to be the “greenest” ski town but to remain economically attractive and competitive with other Colorado ski towns.

On Wednesday, YVSC will join Steamboat’s leadership from both public and private sectors in a Northwest Colorado Energy Roundtable — “Exploring the Relationship Between Clean Energy and a Thriving Economy.” Please join this public meeting from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Citizens Hall to help shape our energy future. You can find more information and register at our website, www.yvsc.org.

Sarah Jones

Executive director,

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council

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