By ROGER LOHR
It’s believed that one of the main reasons that cross country skiers enjoy their sport is to experience the natural outdoors. Most people in the Nordic skiing business are sincere about their concern for the environment and they try to be ecologically aware in their operations as possible.
In the Alpine skiing world, environmental projects, policies and programs have become the basis of the National Ski Areas Association’s Sustainable Slopes program and Environmental Charter. Until recently, cross country ski areas have not had such a program or charter. Like their alpine ski area counterparts, they know that the environment is the ski area’s number one asset. Now an environmental award program for Nordic ski businesses has been developed.
The Eco-Active XC Skiing Leadership Award was developed to publicize and share ideas in the Nordic ski world. The Cross Country Ski Areas Association, which is the national trade group for the areas joined with Cross Country Skier magazine and Ski Area Management and program initiator, RB Lohr & Company to create and support the Eco-Active Cross Country Skiing Leadership Award program.
Eco-active cross country ski area operators support ideals such as: protecting scenic values and wildlife habitats, practicing water and energy conservation, reducing waste and reusing products, designing and building facilities in an environmentally sensitive manner, managing forest and vegetation properly, handling potentially hazardous waste properly and educating their clientele and staff about environmental awareness.
Twenty nordic ski areas submitted some excellent and creative ideas. Some common themes became evident, such as using biodegradable hydraulic fluid in snowcats, wildlife sensitivity, and trail designs that protect streambeds. These eco-active efforts are not typically hundred thousand dollar investments, but cross country ski area operators have much to be proud of with many small but meaningful accomplishments. Many areas are conducting environmental interpretive group programs and display trail signs to tell their environmental story.
The two areas that were recognized as recipients of the first Eco-Active XC Leadership Awards were “A Fierce Chase Cross Country Ski Trails” in Monson, Maine for wildlife education and “Soldier Hollow” in Midway, Utah for using recycled building materials.
John and Sue Chase of A Fierce Chase incorporated their concern for the environment into the development of a business plan that considered their impact on natural systems. They are both teachers and wanted to educate skiers about different ecological issues at the area. Chase worked with a local forester to design trails so that wildlife habitat would not be adversely affected. They developed 20 self-guided wildlife stations at the area featuring informational highlights. Special moonlight group wildlife tours hosted by a local biologist are very popular at the area, too. The Chases have developed partnerships with schools and community organizations to foster more local ecological awareness. Their warming hut is decorated in a wildlife theme with books and information about different species on display. And the ski area also does field research for the Maine Wolf Coalition.
Soldier Hollow, the other award winner, was the site of all of the nordic skiing events at the 2002 Olympics. The 11,000 square foot Soldier Hollow lodge was built using recycled timbers as construction materials for building beams, columns, siding, interior roof, baseboard, and casing. Approximately 90 percent of the wood used in the lodge was salvaged from a 1902 railroad trestle that once crossed the Great Salt Lake. The bridge was closed in the 1950’s and a wood reclamation project extracted the materials.
Other Eco-Active Examples
One of the inventive environmental ideas was submitted by Sleepy Hollow Inn, located in Huntington, Vermont. The owners run its tractor on bio-diesel fuel, which is comprised of vegetable oil. This reduces emissions such as carbon monoxide, but it also provides better engine lubricity and is less expensive to run. Sleepy Hollow also offered free skiing to anyone who drove to the area’s trails in a hybrid, electric or bio-diesel powered vehicle.
Maplelag in Callaway, Minnesota is an active tree farm on the White Earth Indian Reservation. Maplelag’s operators have planted thousands of trees and created more than 20 ponds to benefit local wildlife. Hardwood Hills in Oro Station, Ontario designed and installed a septic system that recovers most of the water which enters the system. The water is filtered, diluted, and recycled for use in the snowmaking system
Cross country skiing brings people outdoors to appreciate nature – and at such a slow pace, skiers can not help but be affected by nature’s beauty and spiritual wonder. As shown in the first Eco-Active XC Skiing Leadership Awards, many area operators are committed to creating and implementing innovative and effective environmental programs to enhance eco-awareness and foster responsible stewardship of natural resources. It’s a natural symbiotic relationship!
For the list of cross country skiing eco-active efforts and ideas that were submitted to CCSAA this year go to Website www.xcski.org