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Mountain Stewards

Colorado ski resorts are thinking green to keep their white.

We usually don’t think twice about hopping on that new high-speed quad and beelining it to the virgin backside for some turns—which makes it easy to forget the perpetual drain on the surrounding forests and wildlife. As long as demand continues, however—the ski industry generates a whopping $2.6 billion a year for Colorado’s economy—ski operations will keep tapping natural resources. “We need to raise the question: Where is it going to end?” says Mike Chiropolos, lands program director for Western Resource Advocates. “We’ve got enough ski terrain. We’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

Curtailing the booming ski industry’s growth is unlikely in the near term, but resorts are working closely with the U.S. Forest Service to minimize their eco-impact. “Many ski areas exceed Forest Service requirements to reduce their environmental footprint,” says Maribeth Gustafson, USFS deputy regional forester, “and we applaud their efforts.” Although some ski behemoths, such as the four-mountain Aspen Skiing Company, are renowned for their progress in saving energy and fighting climate change, even those smaller ski areas that don’t get hoards of Front Range demand are taking steps—small though they might be—to increase their environmental responsibility. Here, three resorts that are doing what they can to troubleshoot their inevitable footprints.

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