Heavenly’s environmental score up | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heavenly’s environmental score up

Gregory Crofton, Tribune staff writer

An environmental coalition says Heavenly Ski Resort is the only mountain at the South Shore to show greater concern for the environment in the last year.

The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition released its annual report card Tuesday that gave the resort a C, up from the D it got last year.

The report card, in its fourth year, is an attempt to allow skiers and riders who care about the environment to choose a resort that works to protect the environment.

Heavenly’s grade is based on the fact that no new development projects were planned. But also because the resort signed on in support of the Climate Stewardship Act, a Senate bill that aims to help control greenhouse gases, said Ben Doon, research director for the coalition.

John Wagnon, vice president of marketing at Heavenly, said he was glad the resort’s grade improved, but that he puts much more value on the solid relationships the resort maintains with environmental protection agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“The way we measure our score is based on our annual efforts – the amount of time and money we spend on environmental projects and the relationship we have with agencies in place to protect Lake Tahoe,” Wagnon said. “Those relationships are very strong.”

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Overall, the report card gave western ski resorts a C-plus, the highest score to date. And the resorts in the Sierra Nevada got the best scores within the Western region.

“We’re kind of excited to see overall, as an industry, they are doing better,” said Joan Clayburgh, executive director of the Sierra Nevada Alliance. “They are using alternative energies like biodiesel fuel. There are some very progressive environmental practices the resorts are beginning to implement.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe got a B, the same grade it did last year. The resort probably would have gotten an A, but it chose not to fill out the coalition survey.

“We feel they have a biased agenda,” said Nicole Belt, spokeswoman for the resort. “We encourage people to take a look at our environmental record and judge for themselves.”

The coalition penalizes a resort if they don’t fill out the survey. Sierra still earned a B because it: Recycles 44 percent of its waste; generates a limited amount of solar power; replaced underground fuel tanks with above ground tanks; and does not have any ongoing real estate development or trail expansion projects.

The coalition gave Kirkwood Mountain Resort a D this year, the same grade it got in 2002. It has a number of construction projects under way.

“As we said last year, you have to look at the source who’s putting out this report card and what it is based on,” said Tania Pilkinton, spokeswoman for Kirkwood. “Any resort doing development is going to get a low grade.”

Pilkinton said all the projects at Kirkwood have been accompanied by necessary work to protect the land, which includes environmental impact reports.

The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition consists of five groups that work to protect the environment – Sierra Nevada Alliance, Friends of the Inyo, Colorado Wild, Crystal Conservation Coalition and Save our Canyons.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com