What makes Lake Tahoe different from other ski destinations? Simply put, it's the lake. Lake Tahoe's natural surroundings, features and depth put in line with some of the top tier lakes of the world such as Crater Lake in Oregon and Lake Baikal in Siberia, and its water is as pristine as that found in Yosemite. With that in mind, protecting the clarity and beauty of Lake Tahoe and ensuring its surrounding environs are protected is a priority for Ski Lake Tahoe.
The Ski Lake Tahoe resorts' commitment to the environment is a powerful one. As part of an industry that depends on weather systems, the resorts are facing environmental concerns and making significant changes to reduce their footprint and improve the ecosystem of their surroundings. As a destination, Lake Tahoe area resorts and organizations have been working hard to reduce its impact by restoring the pristine Lake, keeping forests healthy, enhancing transportation and recreation, and protecting fish and wildlife.
Lake Tahoe's Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) covers what is needed to preserve the Lake -- one of the largest and deepest in the world. Since the 1960s, however, the Lake has lost an average of one foot of water clarity per year due to man-made developments. That's why Tahoe --area businesses and the regional government have put $1 billion into planning for improvement projects to benefit the lake's ecosystem.
A few of the many accomplishments Lake Tahoe advocates are doing to reduce its footprint include:
- Lake Tahoe's EIP is a public-private partnership that rivals some of the largest collaborative restoration initiatives in the United States. This program is ahead of any 'destination' in the country.
- The destination has improved over 13,000 acres for wildlife habitat;
- Restored more than 739 acres of wetlands;
- Treated storm water runoff from 26 miles of state highways;
- Achieved a 20 percent reduction in vehicle traffic near Stateline, Nevada since 2001 because of transit-oriented redevelopment;
- Replaced 18 vehicles in the public transit fleet with clean-burning vehicles
- Limited new development, including a 1.5:1 room reduction for new buildings (meaning for every new room constructed, 1.5 old rooms have to be removed).
Each member of Ski Lake Tahoe has its own list of improvements and changes they have made to increase their contribution to keeping Tahoe blue. One of the elements that attract people to Lake Tahoe is the awesome natural beauty and advocates are working hard to maintain that.
One way the resorts do this is by participation in SkiGreenTM, a partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). A nonprofit organization, BEF is committed to providing access to renewable energy, expanding the use of solar and wind energy, and developing additional energy sources. By selling Green Tags at the ski resorts, they help encourage consumers to take direct action to support environmental efforts designed to save the planet.
For example, in just the first week of Green Tag sales at Alpine Meadows, enough tags were sold to offset 23,800 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Heavenly has long implemented a host of environmentally friendly business practices to protect and preserve the area's unique natural beauty.
Their numerous programs include the following highlights:
- In August of last year, the resort purchased 16 million kilowatt-hours of wind energy, offsetting 100 percent of its energy use for the 2006-07 season.
- In addition, it has committed $1.8 million to treat water run off from the resort's parking lot to make it as clean as drinking water.
Beyond the Green Tags program, Kirkwood's environmental protection efforts include the following:
- A funding project with the National Forests Foundation (NFF) where every lodging unit rental fee during the 2006/07 season included a $1 donation to fund NFF projects within the Eldorado National Forest
- A new carpooling campaign, complete with a carpooling blog designed to serve as a social network for skiers and boarders who plan to visit the resort.
At Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe, a dedication to sustaining and strengthening the region's precious natural resources is evident. In addition to participating in SkiGreen, the resort's efforts include:
- A recycling and waste-reduction programs that resulted in 15.8 cubic yards of solid waste avoiding the landfill during the 2005/06 winter season
- The improvement of water quality through erosion and sediment controls and the implementation of energy- and water-efficiency design, both on the hill and in the lodges; protection of natural wetlands and restoration of native vegetation
Northstar California's focus on environmental efforts includes the following programs and achievements:
- It was the first California ski area to partner with BEF to purchase Green Tags in support of wind energy, offsetting approximately 215,600 pounds of global-warming emissions associated with its electrical energy use.
- It has increased its mass transportation efforts by 36 percent, and operates its shuttle fleet on biodiesel fuel.
Sierra-at-Tahoe embraces sustainable practices, making a point of constantly seeking new ways to lessen the impact on the environment.
- Adventure Zones around the mountain educate both children and parents about the history and geography of the area. Even the Children's Ski School teaches kids how to protect their planet.
- On-site shuttles for guests minimize driving at the resort, and Rideshare Bucks reward employees for carpooling. And to eliminate paper and save trees, Vertical Plus members are given 10,000 bonus feet if they switch to electronic statements.
Squaw Valley's environmental programs are extensive, and include the following examples:
- It has implemented extensive re-vegetation and erosion-control projects to ensure the health of numerous native plant populations and wetlands areas.
- The Olympic Ice Pavilion uses an efficient refrigeration system that applies the heat created to freeze the ice rink towards heating the swimming lagoon and spa, surrounding decks and walkways and the interior of the High Camp mountaintop facility.
What You Can Do
Looking to do your part to conserve resources and protect the environment for future generations of skiers and riders? Here are a few suggestions to start.
- Use Public Transportation - Many of the resorts operate complimentary or low-cost shuttles from locations around the lake. Visit the Getting Here page for more information.
- Carpool to the Resorts - Can't commit to public transportation? Then invite some friends to make the day on the mountain more fun, and the drive to the mountain more eco-friendly.
- Use Trash Receptacles - With trash receptacles all around the mountains, there's no reason not to use one. Littering isn't cool.
- Reuse - Not only do plastic coffee mugs save paper, but they can save you money when you're buying your coffee or hot beverage at the ski resorts. Don't have one? Consider investing in a souvenir mug this season.
- Recycle - Recycling has so many environmental benefits, including saving trees and reducing space in landfills along with the need for incinerators. In addition to recycling your plastic bottles and cans while at the ski resorts, try buying recycled products, as it creates a demand for recycled materials.
- Consider Offsets - A number of organizations, including Green Tags and Terrapass, offer programs that allow you to offset the emissions created by your travel, your driving, and your home.
- Conserve at Home - There are numerous ways to reduce your footprint at home (be it at Lake Tahoe or elsewhere). Whether it's replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's), making sure appliances are unplugged when not in use, buying energy efficient appliances or installing double pane windows or insulated curtains to reduce your heating bills, there are many options for you to choose from to reduce your impact on the environment, and save money in the process.
More information can be found at the following sites:
National Forests Foundation
Sustainable Slopes -- National Ski Areas Association