Putting the Green in Green Mountain State Snow Sports
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.
More info: https://www.boltonvalley.com/about-us/environmental-initiatives
* 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 will execute one of the largest standalone carbon reduction projects in Vermont’s history, and one of the largest in the U.S. ski industry. The project will realize the installation of a 3-megawatt electric boiler to 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.
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 additioan of a new Prinoth tier 4 groomer which replaces a teir 2 maching aa the 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 is the home of Cow Power, with over 1 million kilowatt hours annually coming from Vermont dairy cows, specifically their waste. In addition to supporting local farms and harvesting methane gas, Killington continues to invest heavily in solar power, including onsite AllEarth Solar tracker and four offsite solar farms. These two projects produce enough solar energy to run all the lifts at Killington Resort and Pico Mountain for the entire season, helping to keep one of Vermont’s greenest resorts sustainable. Killington also boasts 47 electric car charging stations for visitors to the mountain, and has most recently upgraded to an electric snowmaking generator, further increasing the area’s snowmaking efficiency with its variable pressure output. https://www.killington.com/culture/environment/green-energy?season=winter
Mad River Glen strives to maintain the current infrastructure, minimize environmental impact and stay true to the Co-op’s vision of maintaining the area’s unique character. The philosophy is to protect and preserve the unique ski experience, putting an emphasis on the mountain, not development. The philosophy can be traced to Mad River’s founder Roland Palmedo who 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 in every aspect of operations. After construction of the new Snow Bowl lift, Stratton reclaimed areas back to their natural state, adding acreage to the 1,500 already protected in conservation easements. Stratton continues to promote sustainability in every day operations, featuring bamboo straws instead of plastic, using 100% recycled paper bags at retail shops, and installing 3 level 2 car chargers for electric vehicles at the resort. The resort has also outfitted its indoor tennis courts with 47 motion-detector LED light fixtures, saving 18,9000kWH and 18,500 pounds of carbon annually. Stratton has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for composting and recycling, and has diverted well over 50 tons of waste since 2014. Stratton is also the only organization in Vermont to be recognized as an EPA WasteWise partner and one of three to have joined the NSAA Climate Challenge.
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’ maintains the Five Star status in energy efficiency in residential construction, wildlife, and habitat protection with ongoing tracking of both the Bicknell’s thrush and black bear populations, and operation of the Living Machine treatment facility using natural biological processes to treat a significant portion of the Resort’s wastewater. Through extensive reuse, recycle, and composting efforts in place, lunch service for the Resort’s daily ski and snowboard children’s camp programs is trash-free. On the mountain, the 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. smuggs.com/environment
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. 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.
After the opening of the Carinthia Base Lodge, 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. Back up on the mountain, thanks to our 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.
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.