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AZ Snowbowl Fails on Environmental Scorecard

Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort tops this year’s Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, receiving 93 percent of possible points and getting an A grade, while Arizona Snowbowl’s comes in last place, scoring 42.2 percent and earning a D.

The 11th annual report card, compiled by the Sierra Nevada Alliance on behalf of the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, finds that 32 percent of ski resorts throughout the western U.S. (27 out of 84) are expanding their buildings, ski runs or associated facilities. Most of those expansions intruded into public lands with long-term impacts on wildlife habitat and the region’s water resources, the group found.

This is a 300 percent increase in the number of resorts expanding compared to last year when only six resorts grew their footprints.

While the Ski Area Scorecard grades resorts on a variety of criteria, significant intrusion into new territory generally leads to a lower score, while expansion onto existing disturbed areas does not. Utah’s Brighton Ski Resort, for example, expanded its facilities within its existing footprint and ended with a better score this year than last, though its overall grade (C) remained the same.

Colorado’s Monarch Mountain made this year’s Bottom 12 List by proposing to expand its lift-served terrain by 120 acres into wildlands, dropping its grade to D, from B last year.

Some 50 of the 84 evaluated resorts submitted information for the scorecard. Additionally, it used public information from websites and documents. The scorecard rank resorts in four categories: habitat protection, watershed protection, efforts to address climate change, and environmental policies and regulations.

Arizona’s Snowbowl, which is the first ski resort to use sewage effluent to make snow, received zero of 50 possible points in the climate change category, and five out of a possible 41 points for its environmental policies and regulations. It earned 60 percent (a C grade) for watershed protection.

Earlier this month, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality found two potential violations of state environmental requirements the Snowbowl. The agency directed the ski area to place signs on snow guns informing the public that reclaimed wastewater is in use and should not be ingested, and to color-code pipes delivering wastewater to distinguish them from the potable water delivery system.

Last February the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims that the Snowbowl was violating Arizona laws on the use of treated sewage effluent. An October 2012 report, however, found that the system delivering the wastewater is a potential breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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