Sunday, August 10, 2008

Celebrate a Wind Powered Chairlift

In the winter, the Zephyr chairlift whisks skiers to the top of the Jiminy Peak mountain, in the picturesque Berkshires of Massachussetts. In the summer, it lifts mountain bikers and hikers. But all year-round, this is a green lift, powered by the wind. And it's a winner.

The wind-powered chairlift has received the 2008 Golden Eagle Award for overall environmental excellence from the National Ski Areas Association, the trade association that represents more than 300 North American alpine resorts that account for more than 90 percent of the skier/snowboarder visits.

The award is sponsored by CLIF® BAR, the leading organic-certified energy bar, which skiers, boarders, hikers and bikers all stash in their pockets or backpacks for a quick fix mid-slope. They also make the Luna brand, which I personally prefer to the original Clif, which can be kinda tough to chew when it's cold, like when I'm skiing.

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is celebrating the first birthday of the Zephyr lift this week with an on-mountain festival, plus free tours of the turbine. This is your opportunity to see how renewable energy works, up close and personal, as the saying goes. Be forewarned -- it's a hike to and from the turbine from the top of the chairlift. But worth it, for the edcuation you'll get about green, renewable energy in the travel industry, including ski and snowboard resorts-- and the view is pretty spectacular, too.

Just so you know -- Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is the largest ski and snowboard resort in southern New England -- about half-way between Boston and New York City. And although other resorts buy wind power or carbon credits to operate their chairlifts, this one is the only mountain resort in all of the United States to generate its own energy using alternative wind power.

The Zephyr is powered by a 1.5 MW GE wind turbine, enough to power nearly 800 houses. It cost just under $4 million to build, including construction of a road to the tower and blades, but the resort expects it to pay for itself in seven years. And think of all the diesel fuel and fumes the Jiminy Peak wind turbine is not using! Good for you, Jiminy Peak.