Dec. 22 UPDATE: The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) has confirmed that the Middlebury College Snow Bowl is the first carbon neutral ski area in the United States.
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Middlebury College officials have confirmed that, beginning this season, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl will be a carbon neutral ski facility. According to Middlebury College Assistant Treasurer and Director of Business Services Tom Corbin, "The Middlebury College Snow Bowl may well be the first ski area to take carbon neutrality to this level by offsetting electric, gas, propane, diesel and biodiesel usage, as well as skier transportation to and from the ski area."
To achieve carbon neutrality, the college has purchased carbon offsets for the ski area's 2006-2007 operations in the amount of $7,138 to compensate for a total of 679.9 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The college bought the offsets from Charlotte-based NativeEnergy, a privately held renewable energy company that helps reduce CO2 emissions by funding Native American owned and operated wind turbine farms and family-owned farm methane projects.
"The ski industry depends on natural snowfall and consistent cold weather for survival and right now both are threatened by global warming," said NativeEnergy President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Boucher. "By choosing to go carbon neutral, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl has established itself not only as a leader in the ski industry but as a leader in climate protection."
Also working with NativeEnergy, the Middlebury alpine and nordic ski teams have become carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for the teams' CO2 emissions related to everything from travel to the electricity used to power the coaches' offices.
The project was initially the idea of a group of students in an environmental economics class at Middlebury College in the spring semester of 2006. The course, taught by Associate Professor of Economics Jon Isham, examined the need for economic reasoning and environmental analysis in the design of environmental policies.
"Since its first trails were cut in 1934, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl has been an integral part of Middlebury College," said Middlebury College Snow Bowl Manager Peter Mackey. "The Snow Bowl is home to our ski teams, and continues to attract students, faculty and staff skiers, as well as the greater Vermont community. The Snow Bowl management, supported by the college's administration, has taken the lead in becoming a carbon neutral ski facility. We hope our actions will encourage others to do the same." Mackey emphasized that none of the costs involved in achieving carbon neutrality at the Snow Bowl will be passed on to its customers.
NativeEnergy and college officials determined the total carbon emissions of Snow Bowl operations over the course of a season, including the burning of heating oil, diesel fuel and gasoline, as well as electricity usage. They also calculated the carbon dioxide released from the transportation of skiers to and from the Snow Bowl based on an average number of skiers throughout the season and the average distance they travel.
NativeEnergy concluded the total carbon dioxide output for running the Snow Bowl for one year to be 679.9 tons and proposed that the college offset this CO2 by contributing to two renewable energy projects:
. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe St. Francis Wind Farm, a tribal-owned and operated wind farm located near the town of St. Francis on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, scheduled for completion in 2007
. The Penn England Farm Methane Project on the Penn England family-owned dairy farm in Williamsburg, Penn.
By purchasing a share of the CO2 reductions that each project is estimated to produce over its operating life, Middlebury College is helping to finance these operations.
"I'm thrilled about our decision to do this," explained Middlebury College Nordic Ski Coach Andrew Gardner. "I also believe there is a competitive advantage to knowing we aren't causing any further global warming as a team."
Middlebury College Scholar in Residence in Environmental Studies Bill McKibben, the faculty affiliate for the nordic ski team, said, "Skiing is the sport most vulnerable to the rapid changes in climate we're now causing on this planet. Three cheers to Middlebury for taking the lead in making its Snow Bowl facility and ski programs carbon neutral."
Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz said, "Working with NativeEnergy to make the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and our ski teams carbon neutral reinforces the college's longstanding commitment to the environment both academically and in terms of institutional operations. The fact that the project was initiated by a diligent group of students in an academic class further underlines the importance of fostering and empowering the ideas of the next generation."