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Know the West

Ski areas get greener

  Western ski areas got their best grades yet in the 2003-2004 Ski Area Environmental Scorecard — but they weren’t spectacular. The median score for the 76 ski areas, graded by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, was a C+.

Tops were Colorado’s Aspen (93.9) and Buttermilk (93.3), which earned high marks for being environmentally conscious. Vail was at the bottom of the class, primarily because of its massive Blue Sky Basin expansion of 1999-2000, but also due to its planned snowmaking increases.

Some ski areas cooperated with the survey, run by six environmental groups from Colorado to Washington. Utah’s Deer Valley Resort, for example, believes its response to the survey shows that the resort is trying; it puts a "gauge to our efforts," a spokeswoman said. More common, however, is the reaction of California’s Sierra-at-Tahoe, which refused to cooperate because, according to a resort spokesman, "we feel they have a biased agenda."

Another critic was San Miguel County, Colo., Commissioner Art Goodtimes, whose local ski area, Telluride, got a D for its expansion and for wetland incursions over the past several years. The report card, he said, would be more valuable if evaluators were "truly measuring the dynamic nature of the industry, and not just damning ski areas for their past sins."

To evaluate the report card yourself, go to www.skiareacitizens.com.