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Skiing has an incredibly large impact on the environment. It is ironic, because so much of what we do is improved by and depends on a healthy environment.
As mentioned above fuel and energy uses are huge for ski resorts. The chair lifts, facilities, grooming, snowmaking, everything takes lots of energy. Furthermore, ski resorts are built in sensitive environments, many of which are the same environments people are trying to protect most heavily. Large amounts of people in the mountains is obviously bad for wildlife.
Commuting to ski areas is a huge impact. Not only from emissions, but from deposits left on roads that are washed into streams, and the roads that we use to access ski areas fragment large areas of natural environment.
I would say that the impact on the environment of backcountry skiing is far lower than resort skiing, and furthermore, of all forms of backcountry travel and recreation, skiing and other wintersports have the least negative impact on the environment because the landscape is in essence protected by the snowpack. Snowmobiling is probably not nearly as bad dirtbiking or, you could argue even mountainbiking in terms of soil degradation, but the fuel burned and the noise are absoulutely devastating to the environment.
nobody has really said anything about lights either,
here on the east coast, night skiing is popular and 3/4 of the slopes at my hill are lit. the thing is, when they shutdown at night, they leave every light on, all night! we have a cabin 8 miles from two separate ski resorts and each one illuminates a section of the sky like a thousand spotlights pointed up. it has to be the largest waste i have ever seen.
This fall I decided to do a water quality analysis at my local hill in Wisconsin for my AP Environmental Science Class. Basically I took three water samples; one from the retaining pond at the bottom of the hill where they draw all of their snowmaking water, one from the Baraboo River which runs just below the hill, and one from a wetland area less than a 1/4 mile away,right across the interstate. My data showed no effects on the wetland (Leopold Wetland Management District). There was some variation in the quality of the water at the retaining pond and the Baraboo river, but I couldn't draw any conclusions because the water could have been contaminated by some of the surrounding agriculture.
So, I guess you could say this is proof that one ski hill is not directly harming any aquatic ecosystems. I was very pleased to see no alarming results. Anyone who is interested in reading my actual paper can PM me and I would be more than happy to send it to you... it's only like 8 pages long.
Skiing is not green...well at ski centers. But in the back country, when you walk up to get the fresh pow, its not as bad.
I just dont feel like arguing about it
Yes of course. Resorts have a huge effect on animal ecosystems, especially on mammals, because the animals are afraid of humans. Most all resorts I have been to, you can find animal tracks in the snow in the morning all over the mountain, but you rarely see them during the day, part of this has to do with feeding patterns, but still, more animals would chill on the slopes if there weren't snowcats, sleds and skiers everywhere.
Some ski resorts try to preserve highly sensitive areas (or are forced to). Vail is a good example of this. Basically that whole little chain of hills is all completely developed, except for one bowl area, Mushroom, which has been identified as a potential Lynx habitat. Vail has done a good job, IMO, of clearly marking this and trying to prevent people from poaching.
A clarification about Wind Energy for those who are not aware. No resorts, to my knowledege, actually run on wind power. There might be a one, or a few on the East Coast, but I doubt it. The way the system works in Colorado is that basically there is one utility company for the majority of the state. They purchase power from individual coal plants, hydro stations, and wind farms, whatever. Then, they sell the electricity to the consumer. Now, when companies like Vail, or New Belgium, which are Colorado companies claim they are "wind powered," they aren't directly receiving their energy from wind. They are simply buying energy off of Excel's grid, but buying what are called Wind Credits, which suggest that you are getting energy from wind. Basically, the consumer pays a few cents extra per Kilowatt-Hour to say they are "wind powered". Better than nothing, but slightly midleading, in my opinion.
I have no idea if the ski industry is bad for the environment, but if it is I feeel as though skiers make up for it. As a whole I see most skiers as pretty green, and hopefully each skier is environmentally aware enough that they can help cover up the footprint left by the industry.