Ski resorts celebrate environment Feb. 22 |

Ski resorts celebrate environment Feb. 22

by Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSolar panels provide energy at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

South Shore resorts are following a nationwide ski industry movement to bring awareness to employees and customers about environmental issues such as global warming.

On Feb. 22, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Heavenly Ski Resort and other Lake Tahoe area resorts will participate in Sustainable Slopes Day organized by the National Ski Area Association. Each ski area will provide information such as fliers and pamphlets to skiers on recycling, car pooling and energy efficiency.

At Sierra and Kirkwood, incentives such as travel mugs and discount coupons will be given to riders who car pool to the slopes.

“Our plan for the day is to reward guests who work to protect the environment,” said Nicole Bent, Sierra spokeswoman.

The day will also be a way for ski areas, such as Sierra, to show off environmentally sound business practices. At Sierra, for example, skiers can stop off at the Grandview Bar and Grill on top of the mountain and see firsthand how the lodge is equipped with solar panels that provide heat to the entire building.

The solar panels heat large vats of water which are piped into the building and circulated. It’s a form of radiated heat, Belt said.

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“It provides 100 percent of the heating for the entire building,” she said. “Sierra has always prided itself on being green. The resort has taken a number of steps over the years in its day-to-day operations.”

At Kirkwood, officials say recycling has become a priority, with paper, aluminum, glass and even ink jet cartridges being taken off the mountain to recycling plants.

“Our materials go to Pioneer, to Pine Grove and Stockton,” said Jan Reed, Kirkwood community relations manager. “There is a community consensus of the people who work and live here that is environmentally conscious and it is working.”

Ski resorts around the nation are picking up the pace in their environmental programs, according to the National Ski Areas Association. In 2000, ski areas across the nation including Heavenly, Sierra and Kirkwood, adopted the Sustainable Slopes environmental charter that acknowledges climate change as a real and potential threat to the environment and to the business of skiing.

Although ski areas are not considered a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, the ski industry believes resorts across the country should have sound environmental practices in place and should pass on information to their customers.

The Sustainable Slopes Charter contains a sweeping set of voluntary principles for protecting the environment and formalizes the industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Kirkwood offers a bonus program for employees who car pool to work, offering them discounts in the form of coupons called Kirkwood Kash that can go toward food, beverages and equipment.

“We are getting a lot of participation in the program,” said Kirkwood spokeswoman Tracy Miller. “If employees have four people with them as they drive in, they get $10 in Kirkwood Kash. It adds up,” she said.

For employees who car pool on Feb. 22, the incentive will be doubled, with $20 in Kirkwood cash given to the driver. Also, for the first 100 guests to the ski area who car pool — at least four people to a vehicle — Kirkwood will give away stainless steel Kirkwood travel mugs.

At Sierra, the first 200 motorists with at least three or more people in the car will receive $5 worth of coupons, called Sierra Bucks, for each passenger as an incentive.

Also, anyone who drives a hybrid car to Sierra will receive free preferred parking for the day, which is worth $15.

Heavenly Ski Resort will participate and offer incentives to skiers that will be decided on at the end of the week, said spokeswoman Molly Cuffe.

— Jeff Munson can be reached at