Image: Skiiers
Douglas C. Pizac  /  AP file
Skiers take the lift up to the slopes at Alta Ski Resort in Alta, Utah. Alta earned an "A" from the SKi Area Citizens' Coalition for its environmentally friendly practices.
updated 1/3/2007 6:57:51 PM ET 2007-01-03T23:57:51

The famed Sun Valley resort received low marks on a report card grading ski areas for their impact on the environment, while rustic Bogus Basin near Boise ranked in the top 10 nationally.

The annual Ski Area Citizens' Coalition report rates 77 Western ski areas on a matrix of environmental policies, such as preservation of undeveloped areas, so-called "green building" practices and energy and water use.

Sun Valley received a "D" on the report card, notching 45.5 points on a 100-point scale.

The report is produced by Colorado Wild, an environmental group based in Durango, Colo., and endorsed by several similar groups in the West

The environmental groups docked Sun Valley for its proposals to expand real estate, open 102 acres of new ski terrain on Baldy Mountain and expand snowmaking, which requires building underground pipes and draining nearby water, for several ski runs.

The central Idaho resort also lost points for its lack of recycling and green energy programs, said Ben Doon, the report's research director.

"If they had the kind of green programs of Aspen or Grand Targhee, they'd easily have a 'B,'" Doon said.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley's director of public relations, questioned the report's methodology. He said the resort has long resisted building the kind of sprawling base villages seen at many ski areas. Sun Valley has left most of its 2,600 developable acres untouched, he said.

The resort's computerized snow making system, the largest in the country, helps it compete with Colorado resorts that receive more natural snow, Sibbach said.

"I'd ask who uses more energy?" he said. "It's the other resorts who develop large condos and base villages. We don't have any of that."

Craig Barry, executive director of the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum, one of the groups that endorsed the report, praised Sun Valley for limiting development. But he agreed with the report's low score.

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He said Sun Valley has failed to ratify the "Sustainable Slopes" program, a list of environmentally friendly practices endorsed by the industry's trade group, The National Ski Areas Association.

"They really don't have any environmental initiative at Sun Valley," Barry said. "It'd be safe to say, it's completely absent."

Across the Northwest, Bogus Basin and Mount Bachelor, outside of Bend, Ore., both received "A" grades and were ranked in the top 10. Both areas benefited mostly from their lack of real estate and minimal ski area expansions.

"We don't take off any points for infrastructure improvements within the existing footprint," said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild. "But when they go outside the existing area for new buildings or ski terrain they get dinged pretty hard."

Jackson Hole in Jackson, Wyo., received a "B" and earned points for its programs to monitor emissions, buy wind power and support skier car pools.

The resort's green programs offset its aggressive real estate plans and lax record on protecting endangered herds of Targhee bighorn sheep and wolverines, according to the report.

Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, scored the worst in the Northwest, with an "F," or 39.2 percent out of 100.

In Montana, two areas near Bozeman — Big Sky, which is developing 5,000 acres it owns at the base of the mountain and Bridger Ski Bowl — both received "Ds" and were rated in the bottom 10.

The report gave the worst marks to Breckenridge, in Colorado, an "F" and a score of 35.0 out of 100.

Aspen Mountain in Colorado, a ritzy and heavily developed ski area, ranked the best with an "A" and a score of 92.8 out of 100. The report lauds Aspen for its strenuous environmental building codes.

"Aspen is a big resort," Bidwell said. "They've done a lot of development and a lot of expansion, but they've done it in an environmentally conscious way. It's definitely something that can be done."

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