Blue skies, fresh powder and a day full of clean mountain air; nothing beats a great day of skiing, especially in late winter and early spring. But even though skiing gets us outdoors and active, it’s not always an inherently environmentally friendly sport. Big resorts mean big crowds and along with them, a laundry list of things that can harm the environment.
A week on the slopes means good things for your body and soul, but it’s equally important to consider the impact on those slopes you’re skiing down. Still, a busy girl’s gotta prioritize her time, and planning your winter ski getaway shouldn’t be a research headache. Fortunately, there’s the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, an independent organization that rates ski resorts and areas according to a strict set of environmental criteria in four areas: habitat protection, watershed conservation, climate change consideration, and environmental policies and practices.
So what’s your best best in terms of an eco-friendly ski resort? Here are the SACC’s top five, meaning that you can rest assured these places are doing their part to keep the environment in mind, and all you have to focus on is enjoying your time on the slopes.
1. Squaw Valley, California
The top-ranked ski resort, Squaw Valley does a great job when it comes to habitat protection, particularly because it puts a high value on protecting undisturbed and environmentally sensitive areas and making sure that local endangered species are protected. But it’s also a world class resort with over 4,000 acres of terrain, which means you’re sure to enjoy yourself.
2. Aspen Mountain Ski Resort, Colorado
Known for its amazing runs, Aspen also gets top environmental grades across all four SACC categories. But even though the resort may be green, if you’re planning a trip to Aspen it’s also important to consider the environmental impact of your travel as well as lodging. Fortunately, the resort is close to the heart of town, cutting your transportation needs.
3. Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort, Colorado
Along with Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk is part of the four resort consortium Aspen Snowmass. It’s currently the home of ESPN X Games through 2012, giving this green resort great national exposure and hopefully encouraging other ski areas to take similar steps to protect the environment.
4. Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, California
Another Lake Tahoe gem, Sugar Bowl is a great venue for a family trip, complete with an extensive network of kid’s trails as well as plenty of slopes for the more experienced. It also does a great job when it comes to protecting local watersheds.
5. Sundance Resort, Utah
Established by Robert Redford, and situated on 6,000 acres of wilderness, the Sundance Resort has everything from skiing to theater, all with four star comfort. Being located in such a beautiful area of the country, the resort is fully committed to doing all it can to consider the environment. Beyond implementing common green policies like a recycling program and offering organic goods in the restaurant, Sundance also has its own glassworks kiln, where glass bottles are broken down and turned into artwork used around the property.
To learn about more green ski areas, you can read the full Top 10 list here.
Don’t see one that’s near you? The SACC also lets you compare ski areas by state. Here’s to a relaxing, and environmentally friendly, ski getaway!