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THE WORLD’S FIRST SKI RE­SORT TO RUN ON 100 PER­CENT RE­NEW­ABLE EN­ERGY HOPES IT WILL IN­SPIRE MORE RE­SORTS TO FOL­LOW SUIT.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Sa­man­tha Ber­man

The first U.S. re­sort to run on 100 per­cent so­lar, plus Ja­panese whiskeys avail­able state­side.

As skiers, we pray for snow. And at Colorado’s Wolf Creek, they also pray for blue­bird days—for good rea­son. The fam­ily-owned ski area has be­come the first in the world to con­vert to 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy thanks to a new 25-acre so­lar farm.

“We were re­ally ex­cited about go­ing so­lar,” says Rosanne Pitcher, Vice Pres­i­dent of Mar­ket­ing and Sales for Wolf Creek and a mem­ber of the Pitcher fam­ily, which owns the re­sort. “It’s been great so far. It’s been very re­li­able for us, and we’ve had very con­sis­tent power. We hope that we’re a good model for other busi­nesses that are in­ter­ested in go­ing this route.”

What’s sur­pris­ing is not that a ski re­sort fi­nally con­verted to 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy—it’s that the first ski re­sort to do so is one of the few fam­ily-owned, com­mu­nity ski hills still stand­ing in an era of ac­qui­si­tions and buy­outs. Wolf Creek Ski Area, out­side the town of Pagosa Springs, is known for its abun­dant pow­der, min­i­mal crowds, and 1,600 acres of ski­able ter­rain—much of it ad­vanced and ex­pert glades, steeps, and hike-to bowls. What Wolf Creek doesn’t have is the deep pock­ets, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tants, and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence of a large cor­po­ra­tion.

Yet the ski area has been ahead of the eight-ball for over a decade, pur­chas­ing its elec­tric­ity with 100 per­cent wind off­sets since 2006, run­ning snow­cats on biodegrad­able grape­seed oil, and con­struct­ing zero-dis­charge wa­ter-free re­strooms. Now this new part­ner­ship be­tween the Pitch­ers and the San Luis Val­ley Ru­ral Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive, struck last fall, cre­ated a 25-acre so­lar farm, the Pen­i­tente So­lar Project, lo­cated 50 miles from the ski area. This al­lows Wolf Creek to run en­tirely on so­lar dur­ing the day, and on wind at night.

“Ski re­sorts con­sume a ton of en­ergy, there’s re­ally no way around that,” says Pitcher. “And some re­sorts, like Wolf Creek, op­er­ate un­der a spe­cial use per­mit. We think we owe it to the pub­lic, and the en­vi­ron­ment, to do our part and keep our moun­tains avail­able to ev­ery­one, now and in the fu­ture. We’re happy to be lead­ers in the in­dus­try. It’s what we all should be do­ing.”

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