Vermont has long been a leader in sustainability and green initiatives by promoting best practices regarding the environment. That same ideology guides many initiatives throughout the state’s ski industry. Efficiency remains a top priority in the design and implementation of everything from snowmaking and equipment to the utensils in base lodge eateries.
No state is more cognizant of minimizing its impact on the environment, and Vermont’s resorts help set the bar high with their never-ending effort to shrink their carbon “boot-print.”
Bromley Mountain’s strong commitment to sustainability and completion of more than 27 projects resort-wide with Efficiency Vermont earned the ski area the 2017 Energy Leadership Award and a reputation for not being afraid of making big moves in its sustainability efforts.
Efficiency efforts continue with an upgraded snowmaking pump-house system with state-of-the-art VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) motors. The VFD motors allow Bromley to adjust the snowmaking system to the specific Bromley power needs by the day, by the hour – you name it. Add that to the investment over the last few years in snow guns (100% of its snow guns are rated High Efficiency), and its system is completely tuned to maximize snowmaking efforts and reduce resource waste.
Determining a parcel of it’s land across the street was “not being used to its fullest potential”, Bromley leadership partnered with Encore Renewable Energy and Tangent Energy to bring its 1,127kW, 1632-panel solar array online. The energized solar array generates enough solar electricity to power 70 average households per year and offset the emissions of 120 passenger vehicles annually.
As the second ski area in the country to boast an on-site wind turbine*, Bolton Valley set a high bar for itself—and continues its sustainability push in a range of areas on the resort.
Not content with just replacing their halogen night-skiing lights with 150 high-efficiency LED lights (cutting that energy use by more than half and saving 1,195kWh annually), Bolton Valley also replaced its diesel generator with an electric snowmaking compressor, significantly reducing fuel consumption and improving operating costs. Bolton was also continued to pioneer in sustainability as the recipient of the very first shipment of Taiga electric snowmobiles in spring 2022.
The 121-foot-tall Northwind 100 Wind Turbine produces approximately 300,000 kilowatt hours of power annually and can start generating electricity at wind speeds as low as 6 mph. The amount of power produced could cover about one eighth of Bolton Valley’s total energy needs, which is equivalent to the electricity consumed by 40 to 45 Vermont households.
Bolton’s pump house located at the top of the Mid-Mountain lift is primarily warmed with captured heat from their new electric compressor, which has the important job role of drying out hoses and keeping them from freezing. Previously a radiant heater warmed the building at a cost of 250gal of propane a week—but the upgraded compressor and two new propane wall heaters that replaced it now use about 100gal of propane per season.
Partnering with the Energy Co-op of Vermont, Bolton Valley installed two Magnum Countryside pellet stoves to heat its base lodge. The stoves burn premium quality wood pellets manufactured locally in North Clarendon, Vermont. Aside from the reduction in fossil fuel, according to the US Department of Energy, pellet stoves have the lowest emissions of any biomass appliance.
Bolton Valley currently has one EV charging station on location with plans to expand in the future.
Reusing and Repurposing
Bolton Valley purchases US-made Skyway trash bags which are made from recycled agricultural plastics and require 80% less petroleum to produce and distribute.
Instead of purchasing new topsoil to repair the heavy traffic that tears up soil and grass around the base lodge, Bolton creates their own organic material by mixing excess dirt from the parking lot, sand, woodchips donated by local residents, and salt. This mixture provides a great soil to grow grass again for another beautiful green summer and a creative way to replace the soil that erodes from the bottom of the slopes during the ski season.
Bolton also donates all used cooking oil to the Alternative Fuel Foundation.
* The turbine is not currently owned by Bolton Valley, but their staff does assist in the maintenance to keep it running and producing energy.
After being selected for Vermont’s Energy Savings Account Pilot program, Jay Peak has undertaken several efficiency projects, including one of the largest standalone carbon reducing projects in Vermont’s history.
In partnership with numerous utilities and State agencies Jay Peak Resort executed one of the largest standalone carbon-reduction projects in Vermont’s history, and one of the largest in the U.S. ski industry. The installation of a 3-megawatt electric boiler will take over the entire heat demand for the 158-room Hotel Jay & Conference Center during times when heating with electricity is more cost effective. The boiler would be responsible for providing the entire heat load for the Hotel, Conference Center, Pump House Indoor Waterpark, numerous restaurants, and retail spaces. Once completed, an estimated carbon reduction of 2500 tons per year can be expected.
This project adds to other efforts at Jay Peak to reduce its carbon footprint through heating. Recently, upgrades to infrastructure allow waste heat to transfer from ice production in the Ice Haus Indoor Skating Arena to heating the Waterpark.
This waste heat, which would otherwise be expelled into the atmosphere, will be used to heat the Waterpark, reducing the amount of fossil fuels required to do the same work while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint of the Hotel Jay Complex overall.
Jay Peak’s Housekeeping team’s expanded partnership with ECOLAB will reduce Jay Peak’s water consumption by two million gallons a year.
The first Carbon Neutral Ski area, Middlebury Snow Bowl continues to work on its sustainability initiatives through efficiency and electrification projects.
Switching from diesel to electric compressors and upgrading to high-efficiency snow guns has both decreased Middlebury Snow Bowls energy consumption while improving its snowmaking abilities. Efficient Rx lighting installed in the lodge further reduces energy consumption, and the addition of a new Prinoth tier 4 groomer which replaces a teir 2 main machine. Middlebury Snow bowl is also one of the first ski areas to sign on to incorporate Taiga electric snowmobiles into its fleet.
Killington’s focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship comes as no surprise. As a community-centered resort, Killington has been leading the charge on environmental initiatives and continues to expand its work by reducing energy consumption, conserving resources and eliminating waste.
Killington continues to expand its use of renewables like solar power, including the recent addition of 14 on-site AllEarth Solar Trackers (which have been designed, tested and engineered in Vermont) and three additional rooftop installations. Killington is making plans for additional roof-top solar installations across the resort.
Killington has also partnered with Namaste Solar to operate four off-site VT-based solar farms, which generate approximately 3,100,000 kWh of clean electricity annually. The electricity produced from all solar initiatives (approximately 3.3 megawatts) would power 370 homes annually and conserve 2,471 metric tons of CO2, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
This electricity is enough to power all lifts at Killington and Pico (excluding the K-1 Express Gondola which is powered by Cow Power.)
Staying with Vermont tradition of buying local, the K-1 Express Gondola and Peak Lodge are powered solely by energy generated from manure at local dairy farms through a partnership with Green Mountain Power.
Through the Cow Power program whereby a dozen Vermont farmers use cow manure at their farms in an anerobic digester system to generate electricity to sell to Green Mountain Power. Killington purchases 1,125,000kWh of this energy annually to power the K-1 Gondola and the Peak Lodge. The process reduces greenhouse emissions produced by cows and expands the use of the readily available, renewable energy in Vermont.
Killington boasts an industry-leading 47 EV charging stations for visiting skiers and riders, and has recently upgraded to an electric snowmaking generator, equipped with variable pressure output, which reduces waste pressure while further increasing the area’s snowmaking efficiency.
Killington operates the world’s most extensive snowmaking system and uses a wide range of snow gun technology—including low energy equipment whenever possible. On average, low-energy snowguns make up 72% of annual snowmaking hours.
Additionally, Killington’s annual capital plans include snowmaking replacements and upgrades that further reduce energy consumption.
Killington owns and operates two wastewater treatment facilities which recycle treated wastewater to their base lodges for flushing toilets. With winter demand at the resort Resort, Killington typically conserves around 35,000 gallons of fresh water daily.
In partnership with Casella, food and beverage teams divert food scraps and waste generated in Killington’s kitchens from going to landfills. Casella of Vermont picks up the food waste and transports it to their Waterbury facility.
In about a year the food scraps will be ready for use in gardens and farms throughout the region. In 2019, Grow Compost of Vermont awarded Killington a Certificate of Environmental Stewardship for diverting 201,600lbs of food scraps from landfills, a greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of saving 8,167 gallons of gasoline from being used.
Killington Resort is the largest private contributor to “The Bus” - The Marble Valley Regional Transportation District. Current ridership for the region exceeds 800,000 one way trips, with resort related trips exceeding 375,000, of which 75,000 are commuter and employee-related which continues to increase each year. In addition to in-resort shuttle service, The Bus operates the Diamond Express Route which connects Killington with the nearby city of Rutland.
Mad River Glen continues its ongoing efforts to maintain its current infrastructure, minimize environmental impact and stay true to the Co-op’s vision of maintaining the area’s unique character. The coop uses its relatively small size to its advantage by minimizing its resource consumption, and takes an active role in forest management, planting trees as wind breaks, mitigating soil loss, and acting as a carbon storehouse.
Mad River Glen’s Naturalist Program educates visitors about the unique alpine environment and advocates for stewardship to continue sustainable recreation, healthy forest, and wildlife habitat.
In line with its focus of protecting and preserving a unique ski experience, Mad River Glen places emphasis on the mountain, not development, a philosophy can be traced to Mad River’s founder Roland Palmedo. Palmedo believed that “…a ski area is not just a place of business, a mountain amusement park, as it were. Instead it is a winter community whose members, both skiers and area personnel are dedicated to the enjoyment of the sport.”
Stratton is dedicated to year-round environmental efficiency and remains focused on sustainability in everyday operations—from innovative waste management to returning land to its natural state—Stratton operates as a community hub and partner through its many environmental programs.
In 2021 Stratton signed on to a 20-year agreement to purchase energy produced by a new solar array in nearby Wallingford. Today, Stratton is among the leading Vermont ski areas in solar energy production; currently 64 percent of all energy used is renewable (wind and solar), with an overall mix that is 94 percent carbon free.
Stratton also outfitted its indoor tennis courts with 47 motion-detector LED light fixtures, saving 18,9000kWH and 18,500 pounds of carbon annually. Stratton also offers 11 Level-2 EV chargers on-site for visitors and guests.
In 2023 Stratton snowmaking teams installed 48 HKD SV10 R5 tower guns, replacing older less-efficient equipment. They also added a new Prinoth Bison XW Stage 5 snowcat, which meets the highest emissions standards in the world: Euromot Stage V. The Bison’s Caterpillar straight-six engine has an exhaust treatment system with SCR catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter that reduces emission to a minimum, making the Bison XW the cleanest snow groomer in its class.
Stratton currently has three snowmaking ponds that pump water to the mountain, with diligent snowmakers monitoring the system for maximum efficiency and minimized waste—while providing the great snow the area is known for.
Stratton is the only organization in Vermont to be recognized as an EPA WasteWise partner—and one of three to have joined the NSAA Climate Challenge.
Recognizing that their snowmaking ponds are home to a plethora of organisms, Stratton monitors water usage to ensure local wildlife continues to thrive. When four undersized culverts were compromised during Tropical Storm Irene, Stratton management replaced and upgraded with larger models equipped with natural bottoms that allow fish and biota free passage in streams.
After construction of the new Snow Bowl lift, Stratton reclaimed areas back to their natural state, adding to the 1,500 acres already protected in conservation easements.
Waste Reduction and Reuse
Stratton’s holistic waste-reduction spans across all areas of the resort. Food and beverage facilities all use bamboo straws and 100% compostable to go-containers. The area also removes food waste from all meal production to use as compost instead of entering the waste stream. Each week, 1-2 tons of future-compost is diverted from a landfill and sent (via Ski Vermont partner Casella) to a methane digester to create electricity used in homes in neighboring New York.
Stratton housekeeping switched cleaning supplies to EcoLogic solutions, eliminating 10,000lbs a year, or the equivalent of 5 Stratton gondola cabins filled to capacity, of non-environmentally sound chemicals, that would otherwise be used and disposed of on the mountain.
Stratton Food and Beverage has increased its focus on sourcing from local farms and purveyors when possible, currently working with Dutton Farm to supply several restaurants with locally grown produce. Accordingly, Table 43.1, Benedicts, and Green Apron change their menus in according to seasonal ingredients, allowing the resort to buy local, and help lessen the environmental impact of out of season farming. In "normal seasons" Stratton operates at approximately 90% scratch cooking, minimizing the distance between farm and table while ensuring high quality food for their guests.
Renovations are more than a way to improve the visitor experience—they’re a way to improve the overall environment. A recent upgrade installed heated walkways in Stratton Village that allowed for decreased salt use. In a round of 2013 renovations, the resort utilized recycled wood, VOC-free paint, and carpet made from recycled fibers. In place of carpet, cork flooring—a renewable resource that can be harvested for up to 350 years from the same tree—was installed in Dashing Bear. The cork flooring has an added bonus of natural thermal insulation and hypo-allergenic properties.
Okemo continues to reduce, reuse and recycle. Ongoing upgrades in snowmaking have made Okemo more efficient at making snow – with a system that covers 95% of trails those improvements are significant. Okemo’s Prinoth grooming machines are equipped with a Caterpillar 400 horsepower, tier 4 engine that meet all the new federal emissions standards with more fuel efficiency and an increase in horsepower compared to the previous model. Also focused on visitors’ engines, Okemo also has 18 Level 2 EV charging stations located on the property to encourage electric vehicle use by skiers and riders. The resort maintains its years-long focus on reduced-power-consumption and energy-efficiency projects and continues its work with Efficiency Vermont. Okemo was recognized recently by Efficiency Vermont for continuous engagement and persistent commitment from its management team. Six projects were completed between 2017 and 2018 with an estimated annual savings of $212,000 (Jackson Gore HVAC controls, refrigeration and LED upgrades in multiple buildings). 32 projects have been completed since 2001.
Since the 1970’s, Smugglers’ has been a leader in environmental stewardship. Operating a mountainside village of this scale in addition to 1,200 acres of alpine terrain requires constant attention to and implementation of sustainable practices.
Smugglers' recently completed its second solar project, a solar farm consisting of 35 solar trackers. The solar farm is about a mile from the Resort on Edwards Road. The Resort first entered into solar power generation in 2007, when a small solar project for hot water heating was installed on the roof of one of the North Hill's Tamaracks buildings.
The new array encompasses about 2.5 acres of a 10-acre field. The site was selected for its exposure to the sun and proximity to existing transmission lines. Fast-growing cedars and spruce trees will be planted on the side of the array visible to homeowners on the adjacent 101 Road towards the northern end of the field.
Each of the solar trackers measures 22 x 14 feet, includes 20 solar panels, and is controlled by trackers with GPS and wireless technology. This technology, which was manufactured in Vermont, adjusts the panels' orientation and angle to the sun, maximizing their efficiency. In addition, and important, for a Resort that loves big snow falls, these trackers are also designed to shed snow in the winter.
The power generated by the array is fed back into the existing transmission grid. The capacity of the array is 150 kilowatts, which on an annual basis is project to offset the energy use equivalent of 30 residential homes. Translated to operations at Smugglers' the power generated will offset most of the energy use of the Village Lodge.
In 2001, as part of their ongoing efforts to reduce energy use, Smugglers invested in energy conservation measures throughout existing resort facilities. Working with Efficiency Vermont, Smugglers' reduced electrical demands by 318,693 kWh annually.
Smugglers’ snowmaking system has reduced diesel consumption by two thirds thanks to a 100% upgrade in the snow gun fleet. Smugglers’ is the first resort in Vermont recognized as an Environmental Leader by the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership program, reflecting Smugglers’ comprehensive environmental management program focused on compliance and minimization of environmental impacts.
High efficiency gas-fired boilers heat all Smugglers’ pools. These heaters are about twice the cost of standard models, but the investment is recaptured in energy savings in only 3 years. In addition, the resort utilizes insulated pool covers when the pools are not in use to reduce heat loss, providing an60% energy savings. In addition to reducing heat loss, the covers also reduce the amount of water and chemicals lost through evaporation.
Smugglers conducts yearly water audits in the fall, checking kitchen and bathroom faucets and showerheads in every residence and commercial facility to make sure they have the proper low-flow aerators. Every toilet is checked for leaking flapper valves (a leaking toilet could use as much as 4,500 gallons of water in a single day) and Smugglers' now purchases water-conserving clothes washers and dishwashers saving at least 85,000 gallons of water per year for 10 homes.
Smugglers acts as a steward of the land for local wildlife through habitat protection and involvement in ecological projects like the ongoing tracking of both the Bicknell’s thrush (a species of concern) and black bear populations. Learn more here.
Beginning in 1999, Smugglers operates The Living Machine, a wastewater treatment facility that used natural biological processes to treat a significant portion of the Resort’s wastewater. The wastewater or influent in the Living Machine moves through a series of reactors. Each reactor creates an environment that has been designed to treat specific components of the influent, utilizing bacteria primarily. Oxygen as well as plants help create a favorable environment in which the bacteria thrive, thus increasing the treatment efficiency and eliminating the need for chemical addition.
Plant roots provide habitat for the useful microorganisms that are employed by the wastewater treatment process. In addition to providing surface area for bacterial growth, the roots also take up nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus as the plants grow. A number of exotic plants such as taro, elephant ear, ginger and various species of lily grow in each reactor arranged on racks much like hydroponics. Fish have been introduced into the final clarifying tank in order to consume algae that grow on the tank walls. The entire facility is located within a greenhouse in order to create an optimal environment for the tropical plants used there.
Smugglers' remains dedicated to environmental stewardship through the use of innovative technology and concepts. Learn more here.
Magic’s investment in equipment and practices have reduce the ski area’s carbon footprint while making Magic more efficient to operate over the long-term.
Magic has invested in over 50 new energy efficient snowmaking guns and is one of the only ski area 100% powered with variable frequency drives for its snowmaking pumps reducing energy consumption for every inch of blown snow. Magic reduced its energy bill by 50% while making more snow and further improvements to snowmaking pipe and a previous switch from primarily diesel compressors to electric compressors has further reduced its energy consumption and expense, as well as resulted in cleaner air. All electricity at Magic is from solar networked sources.
The lodge was also re-insulated with the latest spray foam technology which further reduces heat loss. LED lights have replaced older lighting and air vents have been relocated to reduce further loss of heat in the cafeteria area. Part of being in a local community means being a responsible member of that community; keeping Vermont green and clean is part of our collective mission.
In addition to being an active participant in the EpicPromise Commitment to Zero sustainability, Mount Snow continues to stack up its own regional accomplishments in snowmaking efficiency and waste management.
In its ongoing partnership with Efficiency Vermont, Mount Snow has upgraded its entire fleet of 948 snow guns to 100% low-e technology, yielding the opportunity to make more snow than ever before—all while using less energy.
After opening of the Carinthia Base Lodge in 2018, Mount Snow said goodbye to single use plastic in its two new bars, sit-down restaurant, and multi-station made-to-order dining area. Corinthia has served as a test site for new initiatives that management plans to roll out to the rest of the resort in the near future.
Sugarbush has been part of the NSAA Climate Challenge since 2011, a voluntary program aimed at decreasing its carbon footprint. New this season, Sugarbush has replaced plastic straws with paper straws. Sugarbush is also in a long-term partnership with Green Lantern Capital of Waterbury, to support the development of 2.5 megawatts of clean, renewable solar energy. As of early 2017, five 500-kilowatt arrays - in Poultney, Brandon, New Haven, Guilford, and Wells River - are fully operational and plugged into Green Mountain Power’s electrical grid. In addition, Sugarbush also has a number of other green initiatives including energy-efficient snowmaking, composting/recycling policy, Tesla charging stations and a bio-diesel policy for off-road vehicles. The resort also works closely with the Mad Bus, the Mad River Valley’s free seasonal bus service.
Saskadena Six Ski Area at the Woodstock Inn & Resort have upgraded technology and automation to ensure snowmaking and Mountain Ops are as efficient as possible.
Saskadena invested $400,000 to upgrade its snowmaking infrastructure for the 2018/2019 season, installing 10 new TechnoAlpin snow producers.
This marked the first time that snow production on “The Face” (the mountain’s signature trail) and the ski and snowboard learning center would be fully automated. The snow guns replaced by the new technology have been reallocated to other areas of the mountain to phase out aged snow guns and ultimately bringing in higher quality snow, shorter production, and increased energy and water savings across the ski area’s 24 trails.
Each new snow producers is equipped with state-of-the-art weather monitoring capabilities to provide both instant and historical data (wind speed and direction, relative humidity, ambient temperature and wet-bulb temperature). The upgraded equipment also enables the Saskadena Six Ski area team to monitor and predict weather at various elevations.