An objective truth: You can’t have skiing without snow. Many local businesses are feeling the hurt of this truth, Gore Mountain Ski Resort included. As climate change threatens the viability of winter sports, businesses that rely on snow must become leaders and take green initiatives as Gore Mountain has to combat climate change.
Michael Pratt, general manager at Gore Mountain Ski Resort, explained the massive scale of Gore’s operation, starting with the number of employees necessary to run the place. Each winter “we cut around 500 paychecks, and our annual payroll is about $5 million a year,” says Pratt. During the summer, Gore still employs around 90 workers. Energy use is also a major factor in a business like Gore Mountain’s. Chair lifts, heated lodges, snow machine – all of these things require a huge amount of energy, which totals to around 13 million kwh/year. Based on figures from the US Energy Information Administration, that is equivalent to 1,202 average US homes! To run the snowmachines, a 25 million gallon water reservoir must be used. Long story short, Gore Mountain Ski Resort is both a large and energy intensive business.
Gore Mountain Ski Resort has been successful, but relies on consistent cold temperatures to maintain a thriving business. “We’ve been on a tremendous growth curve,” says Pratt. However, he and others at Gore acknowledged that the growth couldn’t continue forever. “We thought we’d just fall short of the curve, but instead we had the legs cut out from under us,” Pratt explains, referring to last year’s notoriously mild winter. “We certainly have concerns about [climate change], but we’re trying to be a leader,” says Pratt.
In terms of green initiatives, it seems Gore is beginning to pave the way. Last spring, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) honored Gore with the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence. “We do everything we can: lighting efficiency projects, using modernized drives and lifts, analyzing efficiencies of snow guns, re-grading trails to save snowmaking here and there,” says Pratt. And although the energy required to run Gore is massive, they offset 90% of the load with solar panels. Gore Mountain Ski Resort is not only aware of their relationship with climate change, but is making a conscious effort to mitigate their impact on the environment as much as possible. Other ski resorts must focus on clean and efficient energy usage or they will become caught in an ironic feedback loop – creating snow using fossil fuels, further stifling nature’s ability to create snow.