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OT: Ski Area Scorecard

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  • Patrick
    In the annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, Alpine Meadows and Sierra at Tahoe ranked best in Tahoe. The Worst in Tahoe: Kirkwood Very dissapointing since
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 3, 2006
      In the annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, Alpine Meadows and
      Sierra at Tahoe ranked best in Tahoe.

      The Worst in Tahoe: Kirkwood

      Very dissapointing since I just bought a pass at Kirkwood. Next year
      I'll go somewhere else.

      You can see all the scores and send an email to a good/bad resort on
      this page.
    • Patrick
      Response from Kirkwood Read the previous post and the following, and make your own descision.
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 14, 2006
        Response from Kirkwood

        Read the previous post and the following, and make your own descision.

        December 11, 2006

        Thank you for your letter regarding the recent environmental scorecard
        rating we received from the Ski Area Citizens Coalition. While the
        SACC does an excellent job highlighting environmental issues facing
        our industry, the blanket methodology applied against individual
        resorts is highly subjective and the underlying information is
        frequently inaccurate or incomplete. While we understand how hard it
        would be to audit all 77 resorts in the survey, we often find
        ourselves wishing that we had an opportunity to review the material
        before it was published for public consumption.

        The report itself is inherently biased against resorts in the planning
        phases of growth projects. The fact that we want to improve our
        mountain experience by adding new high speed quad chairlifts and a
        mountaintop restaurant puts us in the position where we cannot achieve
        a desirable report on the scorecard. That says nothing about our
        environmental record in terms of planning, protection and mitigation
        efforts. We feel very strongly that those individuals who take the
        time to explore how Kirkwood compares on category elements of the
        rating system recognize that we are within the top half of resorts
        overall, and in a class by ourselves when it comes to resorts actively
        supporting mitigation efforts such as land conservation and wetlands

        For your information I am attaching a copy of our communication to the
        SACC. We expect the issues in our response will result in a better
        rating and we appreciate any efforts you might make to spread our


        David Likins

        CEO, Kirkwood Mountain Resort


        December 7, 2006

        Via email: ben@...

        Mr. Ben Doon
        Ski Area Citizens' Coalition
        P.O. Box 762
        San Luis, CO 81152

        Dear Mr. Doon:

        On behalf of the employees of Kirkwood Mountain Resort and the
        residents in the Kirkwood Valley, I appreciate the offer to review the
        recent environmental scorecard rating given to our resort by the Ski
        Area Citizens Coalition. While we understand that the review is highly
        subjective and inherently biased against resorts that have ongoing or
        proposed development, we feel that there are a number of computation
        errors and or omissions that should be surfaced to tell the complete
        story of what we are doing here at Kirkwood to protect the environment
        in which we live and operate. Kirkwood is unique in that we are not
        connected to the regional power grid and we are isolated from many of
        the services available to our competitors. This remoteness creates
        both significant challenges and opportunities for environmental
        stewardship and we feel that our efforts and track record should
        reflect a much higher level of achievement than your organization has
        represented. In an effort to simplify the story, I will attempt to
        review the material as structured in your rating criteria:

        1. Maintaining Ski Terrain within the Existing Footprint: 15 of 30
        points. We would note that while we are pursuing a revised Mountain
        Master Development Plan with the USFS, 100% of the proposed
        improvements are located within our existing permitted boundary area
        and thus all of the impacted terrain is currently disturbed by ski
        traffic. We believe this should be commensurate with your criteria
        that "Ski area upgrades and improvements that take place within
        already impacted ski area boundaries… have less damaging impacts on
        wildlife and the environment…" We think that this conscious decision
        to maintain our impacts within our permit area should not result in a
        loss of points under your rating system.

        You correctly noted that we requested approval from the USFS to guide
        skiers in the Thunder Bowl area adjacent to Kirkwood. We would like to
        point out that this is an area already permitted for use under the
        USFS for grazing and other events and that our permit does not request
        or suggest the use of any mechanical equipment. This is purely a ski
        in and hike out operation that we feel improves overall environmental
        stewardship rather than reducing it.

        I would also like to note that our Specific Plan requires that
        Kirkwood plant 5 trees for each tree removed for improvements. KMR has
        stuck to this program, purchasing over 250 trees in 2005 alone to
        compensate for trees felled in conjunction with both its Lift 7 high
        speed quad upgrade and its dead tree maintenance.

        2. Preserving Undisturbed Lands from Development – 4 of 31 points.
        While we completed a EIR and Specific Plan in 2003 that will have some
        impact on undisturbed lands and terrain, your criteria does not take
        into consideration that as part of this proposal we have set aside 133
        acres of private land into permanent conservation easements and have
        pulled nearly 100% of the approved development under the 1988 Master
        Plan into infill projects located in already disturbed locations. Our
        calculations of the undisturbed acreage that will be impacted by
        future development of the 2002 Specific Plan include roughly 6.5 acres
        in Martin Point, 5.0 acres in Palisades VI, 5.0 acres in East Village,
        10.0 acres north of Highway 88 and 2.0 acres in Timber Creek. We are
        also in Year 2 of 3.7 acres of disturbance in Palisades V which
        translates to 3.0 acres. These developments total to 31.5 acres
        including all roadway and building envelope disturbance in zoned
        development areas. Your prior figures did not consider redevelopment
        of existing lodge and parking locations where there is no new net
        disturbance. You also cited disturbance in East Meadows, Juniper Ridge
        and the early phases of the Palisades which were completed and
        disturbed more than 5 years ago. Under criteria 2a, this should
        improve our score from 0 to 10 points.

        Under our specific plan agreement, 100% of the proposed road
        construction is within the disturbance zones cited above for
        residential construction. We have no plans for additional ground
        disturbance for road construction at this time and believe that we
        should, therefore, qualify for all 8 points rather than the 4 we were
        granted in criteria 2b.

        Under criteria 2c we have no parking lot expansion plans into
        undisturbed areas other than those parking spaces located on the
        development properties accounted for in criteria 2a. Our existing
        parking lots have been in place for over 5 years and while we
        continually improve them, we do not pursue additional ground
        disturbance in those locations. We think that we should be granted all
        3 points in this category.

        3. Protecting or Maintaining Threatened Species and Their Habitat – 6
        of 22 points. While the Environmental Impact Statement does identify
        certain species of plants and animals that may be impacted by
        potential development in the identified areas, we are one of the few
        resorts in the country that we know of that have an active flora and
        fauna identification program in place. Our program includes a full
        time staff member that is trained in horticulture and a third party
        consultant who evaluates the impacted area several times per year. The
        report does identify three plant species located within our project
        area but it is worth noting that these species are sensitive rather
        than threatened or endangered. Of the 8 animal species, again none are
        on the threatened or endangered list while 6 are on the sensitive list
        and 2 are on the candidate list. Importantly, our studies indicate
        that only the American Martin has been observed on our property while
        the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and the Red Fox have been identified
        near our property. The other 5 species have not been found on or near
        our property. We believe this would translate into 6 sensitive species
        where we may have an impact which would imply 11 points rather than
        the 6 we were granted.

        4. Preserving Environmentally Sensitive Areas – 21 out of 30 points.
        Under criteria 4a we have submitted a plan to disturb 1.4 acres of low
        factor value wetlands which represents virtually all of our proposed
        residential development in Kirkwood. We have been working with the EPA
        and the US Army Corps of Engineers to develop a mitigation plan that
        replaces those 1.4 acres with 2.8 acres of additional wetlands that
        have significantly higher factor values. The 2.01 acres of wetlands on
        USFS lands would have no disturbance or remediation requirements. We
        think that we are making significant wetland improvements that provide
        us with 9 points. If the scorecard chooses to dock the company for
        improving the wetland space and features then it should be using 1.4
        acres and provide us with 3 points. The balance of the criteria of 4b
        to 4d correctly identify that we are not impacting old growth forests,
        preserving unique geological formations and protecting roadless areas.
        I would point out that we are participating in a program with the
        Sugar Pine Foundation to help identify white pine and white bark pine
        trees resistant to the blister rust infection that has killed
        thousands of five-needle pines in California since 1930. The goal is
        to plant disease resistant seedlings throughout the Eldorado National

        5. Conserving Water and Energy by Avoiding New Snowmaking – 5 out of
        20 points. Your scoring docks the resort 15 points for its proposed
        snowmaking expansion under the EIS associated with the USFS MMDP. We
        would point out that our proposed snow making expansion was modified
        to reduce the snowmaking territory to +/-100 acres and that our
        snowmaking water rights draw from the dammed Caples Lake. Under your
        criteria, "new snowmaking utilizing reservoirs that recharge during
        high flow time are not counted toward this criterion. Given that the
        El Dorado Irrigation District maintains Caples Lake above pool level
        every year (essentially drained every year for hydro purposes and
        filled in the spring) our proposed expansion should not be included in
        the calculation and we should receive 20 of 20 points.

        6. Opposing / Supporting Environmentally Sound Policy Positions – 3
        out of 10 points. Under criteria 7a Mountain Utilities has no
        outstanding fines associated with any violations with the Great Basin
        Air Pollution Control District or any other agencies. While we did
        contest a 2004 fine for heat stack reporting, the fine in question in
        your report was eventually reduced by over 50% and put into a program
        to reduce emissions from wood burning fireplaces. The balance of the
        fine has since been paid. We should be granted the 2 additional points.

        Under criteria 7b we feel our political stance has supported
        progressive government and legislative policies. We actively supported
        the 2006 Alpine County legislation to impose traffic impact fees on
        developers within Kirkwood to create funds for regional traffic safety
        improvements. We have actively supported and drafted legislation to
        create requirements for employee housing in Kirkwood. We are the only
        ski resort developer that we know of in California that supports a
        County ordinance to house 30% of our peak season employees in on- site
        housing. We have supported the adoption of the limited growth general
        plans in Alpine, Amador and El Dorado Counties and our Specific Plan
        did not seek an increase in the total development units allowed in
        Kirkwood since inception in the 1970s. We believe this activity
        warrants some point activity in these criteria.

        7. Promoting and Implementing Recycling and Water, Land and Energy
        Conservation Strategies – 11 out of 41 points. Under criteria 8a we
        have received zero points for the purchase of offsite energy credits.
        As one of the only resorts in North America not connected to a
        regional power grid, this is an area of particular challenge. While we
        have not been able to purchase credits from the grid, we were able to
        acquire new tier II generation assets for our power plant that have
        resulted in a 20% reduction in emissions and fossil fuel consumption
        for all of Kirkwood over the past two years. This is an extremely
        important improvement for the area as our investment results in a 20%
        conservation for everyone in Kirkwood. Owning a utility off the grid
        creates other opportunities - we are the only resort we know of that
        is attempting to use net solar metering to meet some of its resort
        utility demands. We have a house in our utility company service area
        being completed in January that will be equipped with a solar net
        metering solution that will push electricity onto our local power grid
        that we can use in our distribution system for the resort or other
        purposes. This has been a significant project to identify the metering
        solution to this opportunity and should ultimately qualify us for
        points under the generation criteria in 8b. We also use solar assist
        in our ski patrol facilities on mountain.

        Under criteria 8c, we now use recycled products on over 67% of our
        office and food service paper products, having switched suppliers to a
        sugar cane based biodegradable packaging material in 100% of our food
        service locations this year. This would add 2 points.

        Under criteria 8f we used recycled wood products in our recent
        reopening of one of our restaurants and recycled portions of the
        Timber Creek facility that was torn down this summer. Certainly this
        qualifies for 1% to 50% and a point.

        Under criteria 8g we have moved over 67% of our public restroom
        facilities to low flow toilets, just recently tearing down 26 toilets
        installed in the 1970s for modern urinal systems. I would think this
        qualifies us for the third point.
        Under 8i we have undergone an energy conservation campaign in nearly
        100% of our facilities. Improvements include replacing 100% of our
        snowmaking guns with 28 new high efficiency air/water guns that use
        25% less electricity. In fact this year we eliminated 20% of our air
        compressor capacity in our snowmaking operations and have been
        operating on less than 40% of our prior capacity on most nights. We
        have also improved insulation and or siding in our employee housing
        units, placed motion sensors in older lodge buildings where lighting
        had previously been hard wired, replaced doors and windows in
        locations where heat had escaped, installed ceiling fans in mixed use
        facilities and designed buildings with superior ventilation systems so
        that we could eliminate the air conditioning systems. We believe these
        changes should qualify us for 9 additional points in this section.

        In summary our conservation efforts should result in an additional 13
        to 15 points.

        8. Minimizing Traffic, Emissions and Vehicular Pollution – 4 out of 26
        points. Under criteria 9b you credit the resort with subsidizing the
        two public busses that run the 35 miles from South Lake Tahoe to
        Kirkwood during the ski season. Under our group sales plan in criteria
        9c we provide a free bus pick-up to South Lake Tahoe guests to
        minimize parking impacts and car travel.

        Under criteria 9e, over 50% of our snowmobiles are 4-stroke and we
        have eliminated over 6 vehicles from our fleet in favor of four-stroke
        all terrain vehicles. This change should result in two additional points.

        Clearly there were a number of policy areas where our more recent
        efforts to operate and plan in an environmentally conscious manner
        were not being reflected in your most recent scorecard. As a growing
        resort we will likely not qualify for your higher marks for some time,
        but there is a considerable difference between support and
        recklessness when it comes to environmental issues. We trust that
        these responses and additional information will be taken into careful
        consideration and that your organization will make efforts to
        incorporate this data into your published material. We welcome
        whatever input you might have and would be more than happy to respond
        to any concerns. Please feel free to contact me at (209) 258-7443 or
        to speak with Michael Richter, our Director of Environmental Affairs
        at (209) 258-7418.

        We look forward to your response.


        David P. Likins
        CEO, Kirkwood Mountain Resort

        --- In skiingfanatics@yahoogroups.com, "Patrick" <proe01@...> wrote:
        > In the annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, Alpine Meadows and
        > Sierra at Tahoe ranked best in Tahoe.
        > The Worst in Tahoe: Kirkwood
        > Very dissapointing. I just bought a pass. Next year I'll go
        > somewhere else.
        > You can see all the scores and send an email to a good/bad resort on
        > this page.
        > http://www.skiareacitizens.com/index.html#best
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