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January 19, 2005

No Business Without Snow Business

The Seattle Times stole my thunder this morning. Resentful about my skiing-less weekend and sweltering in the upper-50s on my (normally cold) morning run, I had planned to write about the terrible snowpack in the Cascades, particularly on Snoqualmie Pass. Snoqualmie has easily the thinnest base of snow in the last 10 years (and I bet in a very long time, if we could find the data to prove it).

The Times article documents the poor conditions at Washington's ski areas. The hardest hit, however, is altitude-challenged Summit at Snoqualmie which technically "opened" on December 28, but has yet to actually open most of its runs outside of Alpental. The entire operation is shut down today, as it was yesterday. And with a paltry 30 inches of snow on the ground, the area could conceivably stay closed for a while longer. Even the Mount Baker Ski Area--which once received the heaviest snowfall ever recorded, anywhere--is staying shut for several days.

The ecological consequences of low snowpack are serious: drought, desiccated salmon runs, forest fires, and so on. The scant snow is also terrible for the state's struggling economy: seasonal workers are being laid off or not finding sufficient work, and sales at ski areas and gear shops are anemic. And the indirect economic costs are even greater.

Climate change is the likely culprit for the crime that my skis have not emerged from the closet since last winter. But what can we do? Well, many of Washington's ski areas have endorsed the National Ski Areas Association's environmental charter, which encourages action on climate change. You can find a complete list of our green ski areas here--they deserve our patronage. If the snow ever returns, that is.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


Good point Eric. In addition to signing the NSAA charter, many Northwest ski areas are now acting on sustainability through supporting clean renewable energy via utility green power programs or Green Tags (also known as renewable energy credits).

Several also offer smaller Green Tags called 'Mini-Green Tags' for sale to ski area guests. At $2 for the equivalent of 100 kilowatt-hours of NW wind energy, Mini-Green Tags can help to offset the emissions caused by an individual's drive to their favorate ski area. There's a site called SkiGreen.org with more information on the program and current participating ski areas.

The thing to know is that the ski areas are not using these guest contributions to "green" the ski area's energy. It's up to the area to do that themselves. What Mini-Tags offer is a way for skiers to join in with their ski area and contribute towards a cleaner electricity system.

Even in a bad season, the Northwest ski areas are acting together as leaders on this issue. This is the only region to address renewable energy as a joint initiative.

I encourage skiers to participate with Mini-Tags where they can and to let their favorate ski area know they appreciate thier taking some steps on climate change.

Posted by: Pat Nye | Jan 24, 2005 10:34:30 AM

Thanks for reminding me, Pat! I'd meant to include something the Mini-Green Tags--a very cool idea and definitely worth plaudits--but I just didn't get around to it. I made up for it with today's post though. Check it out: http://cascadiascorecard.typepad.com/blog/2005/01/snow_business_i.html

Posted by: Eric | Jan 24, 2005 3:37:11 PM