Monday, November 24, 2008

Taos Combines White Snow and Green Policies

There are two major changes for New Mexico's legendary Taos Ski Valley this winter season. First, it is the first full season in which snowboarders are able to share the slopes with skiers. Taos was one of the last ski-only hold-outs in the U.S., allowing boards for the first time only at the end of last season.

The other biggest change will be that 100 percent of Taos Ski Valley’s electricity will now come from renewable sources. In a partnership with Kit Carson Electric, Taos Ski Valley will purchase approximately 3,000,000 kilowatt hours of wind power and will no longer rely on traditional coal-produced electricity.

The resort is the region's largest energy consumer, and the switch to wind power is expected to encourage other large energy consumers and ski resorts in New Mexico to consider switching to renewable energy to run chairlifts and other amenities. Other green practices include replacing older two-stroke snowmobiles with new, cleaner-burning four-stroke snowmobiles, and more modern, more efficient snow-making compressors.

Taos Ski Valley also offers guests a unique "SkiGreen" program, which lets you offset 150 miles of the carbon produced from your travel. Add the SkiGreen tag to a lift ticket for just $2 or to a season pass for $20. SkiGreen is a partnership between the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and other leaders in the winter sports industry.

Employees also contribute to keeping the valley green. Instead of each employee driving an average of 30 miles round-trip every day for work, they will now park their cars at a central location and carpool in a company vehicle. The resort estimates this new program will eliminate more than 150 miles of driving each week, and help reduce carbon emissions in the ski valley

It's not just a winter thing. The resort works with the National Forest Service every summer to plant grass to keep soil from eroding on the ski and snowboard trails. Also, as the area grows, more runs are being thinned into glades instead of clear-cutting them into open trails.

Taos joins a growing list of winter resorts switching to wind power. Most definitely, these travel destinations are the green leaders.