Whistler Blackcomb: Micro-Hydropower
From lifts and lights to the machines that make and groom snow, running a ski resort is energy intensive. But many ski centers around the world are using less energy, and getting it from greener sources, in the face of rising fuel costs and concern over climate change, which could be a spoiler for all snow sports enthusiasts.
Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada, has embraced creative means to go green, generating its own renewable power by harnessing on-site natural resources of water and gravity.
The Fitzsimmons micro-hydro renewable energy project taps the power of the Fitzsimmons River, which runs through the heart of the resort under the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Roiling mountain waters turn turbines that return an estimated 32 gigawatt-hours of electricity to the grid each year—an amount equal to Whistler Blackcomb's stated annual energy consumption.
(Related: "Snowboarder Jeremy Jones on Protect Our Winters")
Warren Rider, of the Ski Areas Citizens Coalition (SACC) and Rocky Mountain Wild, said such energy initiatives can attract customers. "We truly believe that an environmental ethic is there among most skiers and snowboarders," he said. "They will make choices on where to go based on a lot of factors but, given the opportunity, one of them is the environmental responsibility of the ski areas themselves."
— Brian Handwerk