Ski resorts receive high green marks

Ski resorts all over the West have gotten their green grades, and there’s reason to celebrate. The new Ski Area Environmental Report Card saw improved environmental ratings for the fourth year in a row. Southwest Colorado ski areas received especially high marks.

The annual report card is released by the Ski Area Citizens Coalition and grades the environmental aptitudes of the West’s 82 ski resorts. This year, the industry as a whole saw an average improvement of 2 percent. Resorts continued to invest in water and energy efficiency and took a pass on terrain expansions.

“Ski areas are not developing as much new terrain in delicate areas,” said Paul Joyce, Ski Area Citizens Research Director. “Is this due to an environmental commitment? Or when the economy turns will the treads on the bulldozers turn also?”

Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Durango-based Colorado Wild, shared Joyce’s concern and fears that economics are driving the current green trend. However, he remains optimistic.

“Colorado resorts improved for the fourth year in a row,” he said. “But we’re concerned the environmental trend is skin thin and not a total mindset. We hope the days of bulldozing wetlands and serving eviction notices to wildlife to add new runs are truly over.”

Nearby resorts continued to garner high marks for environmental stewardship. Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort received an overall “B” grade and was commended for its commitment to wildlife habitat, combating climate change and environmental policy. Telluride Ski Area also received a “B” and Wolf Creek Ski Area clocked its perennial “A,” largely for its alck of development.

There were some exceptions to the glowing grades, however. Nearby Taos Ski Valley went into virtual detention this year, earning a “D.” Breckenridge and Copper Mountain also barely dodged failing grades with “D’s.” However, these low points should not detract from an overall strong class, said Norma Ryan, of Ski Area Citizens.

“As a whole we’re happy to see that resorts appear to be taking their environmental performance and practices more seriously,” she said. “Of 82 ski areas evaluated, only Taos made an environmental face plant, and 26 areas received an overall grade of ‘B’ or better. That speaks well for future of the industry.”

The Ski Area Citizens Coalition has been publishing the Ski Area Report Card for the past 10 years and grades based on a system of 40 criteria. The full report card and additional details can be found at

Shriver vacates FLC Cycling coach post

Fort Lewis College Cycling is losing its director and head coach to the big time. Matt Shriver is leaving the program for a job with Trek Bicycles as the team liaison with Team RadioShack.

“Although my intentions were not to leave Fort Lewis Cycling anytime soon, this offer was one I could not overlook,” said Shriver. “It will provide a skill set that I cannot get anywhere else and a lot of international experience in the cycling world. I am looking forward to a long term career with Trek Bicycles.”

Shriver led the FLC Cycling team to three national championships: two mountain bike titles and one cyclocross. He also helped increase the national visibility of Fort Lewis College Cycling through his own racing at the Leadville 100 in 2009.

Recruited by Durango cyclist Travis Brown, Shriver rode in support of Lance Armstrong in the Leadville 100 and his speed and ability caught the eye of the legendary cyclist. The two forged a relationship that helped bring Armstrong to Durango for the world premiere of the cycling movie “Race Against the Sky.”

Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000 and a member of the FLC Cycling Advisory Board, noted that Shriver has been instrumental in FLC Cycling’s success.  “Because he’s raced road, cyclocross and mountain and traveled, he has an extensive perspective on racing to offer the team and future racers,” she said. “Durango itself offers students looking at colleges one of the best collegiate cycling programs in the country. Obviously, the results speak to that but the culture of Durango and the fact so many pros have made it their home continues that legacy.”

Shriver will be working with the FLC to find his replacement. A formal announcement is expected sometime after Jan. 1, 2011.

EPA extends power plant scoping

Progress at the Four Corners Power Plant will be stalled out for at least a few months. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced an extension on the comment period for its proposed pollution reduction requirements for the notorious polluter. Regardless of proposed controls and extension, clean air advocates fear that the plant will remain a smudge on the Four Corners for decades to come.

The plant, located on Navajo land near Farmington, is the nation’s largest source of nitrogen oxide and the biggest source of regional haze. After decades of excess emissions, the EPA issued a recent rule requiring new pollution reduction technology on all five coal-fired units of the 2,040 megawatt power plant.

In response, Arizona Public Service Co., which owns Units 1, 2 and 3, has proposed shutting down the antiquated generators and purchasing Units 4 and 5 from Southern California Edison. The company plans to install the new technology on these units and run the plant at a fraction of its former capacity.

Jeff Guldner, APS Vice President of Regulation, noted that the proposal would save its customers $500 million and result in an improved Four Corners airshed. “While reducing overall power plant emissions in the Southwest, this proposal maintains a healthy diversity in APS’s generation portfolio as we integrate more renewable resources and manage our exposure to volatile fuel sources such as natural gas,” he said.

Area conservation groups are not convinced and are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to help the Four Corners transition away from a coal-fired future. In spite of the new technology, APS still plans to burn coal at the plant through the year 2041.

“We believe that it is time to expedite long-term solutions that benefit our health, our economy, reduce regional haze at our treasured national parks and end the legacy of environmental degradation,” said Mike Eisenfeld, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “The larger goal here is to transition this region to an economy that benefits everyone who lives here.”

Courtesy of the recent extension, the window for public comments has been stretched from Dec. 20 until March 18.

– Will Sands



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