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Ski Areas: Operations
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons to Change
Environmental Management
Preventing Pollution
Where To Go for Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Building Life Cycle Cost Software
Provides an economic analysis of proposed capital investments that are expected to reduce long-term ...
Resources for management systems used in implementing Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention, a...

Environmental Awareness for Mountain Resort Industries
This environmental guide helps those involved in the mountain resort industries to identify proven m...

Greening Your Ski Area
The handbook provides environmental strategies for on-mountain operations, as well as for management...

Ski Area Best Management Practices (BMPs)
Guidelines for planning, erosion control, and reclamation.

Sustainable Design and Construction at Ski Resorts
Many examples of how ski areas are implementing sustainable design and construction practices.

Below is an outline of common operations occurring at ski areas and primary environmental concerns associated with each.


Ski areas purchase numerous products from a variety of commercial and industrial sources. Virtually all items purchased have environmental aspects that contribute to a ski area's environmental impact or footprint. Ski area purchasing operations focus primarily on purchasing and distributing items for ski areas and developing purchasing arrangements with vendors. The term "purchasing" applies to all types of purchases from cleaning supplies to uniforms to energy from power companies. Therefore, environmental purchasing policies and guidelines present an opportunity for ski areas to make significant environmental performance improvements.

Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - parts cleaning mineral spirits and some chemicals used in the shop
  • Hazardous waste generation - parts cleaning mineral spirits, non-empty aerosol cans, oil filters, paint waste, and miscellaneous sludges
  • Toxic and hazardous chemical use - brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner, engine degreasers, and lubricants
  • Solid waste generation - aerosol cans, paper rags, and miscellaneous items
  • Spills - hydraulic line breaks in shop and on mountain, chemicals, and fuels
  • Use of non-renewable resources - oil, gasoline, and diesel
  • Air emissions - snowcats, groomers, snowmobiles, trucks, off-road vehicles, and other small engine equipment

Ski area vehicle maintenance shops maintain vehicles and equipment including snowcats, groomers, snowmobiles, pick up trucks, off-road vehicles, and other small equipment. They also generate a variety of solid wastes, hazardous wastes, and air emissions and have many opportunities to reduce these environmental hazards. For example, a typical vehicle maintenance shop that implements the environmental strategies discussed in the "Greening Your Ski Area" handbook can generate little or no hazardous waste. Environmental issues associated with vehicle maintenance shops arise from:

  • Parts cleaning
  • Chemical use (brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner, engine degreasers, and lubricants
  • Chemical application
  • Shop heating
  • Gasoline and oil use
  • Oil bottle and filter waste generation
  • Snowmobile use
  • On-mountain hydraulic line break

Lift Operations

  • Energy use - electric and diesel
  • Solid waste generation - sheave liners and aerosol cans
  • Hazardous waste generation - spent solvents from parts cleaners, oil-based paint, and paint thinner
  • Natural resource consumption - diesel and oil

Operating lifts involves lift maintenance, monitoring peak demand with local utilities, changing energy source (from electric to diesel) depending on electricity demand, heating and lighting lift houses, painting lift towers, and occasionally, purchasing new lifts.

Food and Beverage Service

  • Known and suspected human carcinogens - in polystyrene foam, some cleaning, landscaping, and pest management products
  • Not recycling or using recycled content products - polystyrene foam, paper, metal, glass, plastic, and printer cartridges
  • Plastic product use and disposal - cups, utensils, garbage bags, and straws
  • Chlorine-bleached paper products
  • Harmful chemicals - cleaners, landscaping, and pest management chemicals
  • Inefficient energy and water use
  • Use of electricity from non-renewable energy sources

Restaurants at ski areas range from coffee shops and bars to cafeterias to full service restaurants. Some restaurant operations include cooking, cleaning, serving, general management, purchasing, solid and hazardous waste generation and disposal, and regulatory compliance.

Buildings (including lodging)

  • Energy use - lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • Toxic and hazardous chemicals use - cleaning products, and paint
  • VOCs use - paint, paint cleaning chemicals, carpet adhesives, and carpet backing
  • Hazardous waste use - paint cleaning chemicals
  • Solid waste use - paper, glass, plastic, metal, newspaper, cardboard, and carpet
  • Obsolete electronic equipment disposal
  • Water use
  • Waste water
  • Known and suspected human carcinogens use - cleaning, landscaping, and pest management products
  • Harmful chemicals use - cleaners, landscaping, pest management chemicals, and pool and hot tub disinfection
  • Chlorine - bleached paper products
  • Use of electricity from non-renewable energy sources

Ski area buildings such as lodges, rental shops, administrative buildings, restaurants, ticket sales, and retail shops consume significant energy for illumination, heating, and ventilation. Although energy consumption in ski area buildings may vary according to function, the same general operations are the same in most buildings. Other than energy use, building maintenance operations generally include cleaning, painting, removing and installing carpet, and waste disposal.

Operations at lodging facilities are similar to general building operations. They include:

  • Room and common area cleaning
  • Laundry operations
  • Pools and hot tubs heating and maintenance
  • Office operations
  • Landscaping
  • Restaurant operation (see Restaurant section)


  • Energy use (pumps, fans, water coolers and air compressors)
  • Water use

Many ski areas make snow to create and maintain quality skiing conditions on slopes during times of inadequate snowfall. Making snow involves selecting the appropriate snowmaking equipment, understanding meteorological concepts, knowing where snow needs to be made, maintaining appropriate line pressure and outlet pressure, modifying snowmaking set up as meteorological conditions shift, and identifying and fixing line air and water leaks.

Grounds Maintenance

  • Water use
  • Pesticide use and application
  • Water quality
  • Erosion control
  • Vegetation selection
  • Soil compaction

Ski areas maintain on-mountain grounds and landscaping around lodges and common areas. Many ski areas also have golf courses that operate in the summer months and require grounds maintenance. Operations include landscaping design, plant selection, planting, and maintenance (watering, pest control, erosion control etc..)

Sustainable Design and Construction

  • Planning sustainable site
  • Maximizing energy efficiency
  • Minimizing material and resource consumption
  • Enhancing indoor environmental quality
  • Safeguarding and conserving water

Sustainable refers to meeting needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable design is the systematic consideration of a project's life-cycle impact on environmental and energy resources. The basic theory of sustainable design is relatively simple. Implementation, however, is complex. Ten key elements of a sustainable building are:

  • Sustainable Site Planning and Landscape Design
  • Use of Renewable Energy Resources
  • High-Quality and Energy Efficient Lighting
  • Energy Efficient Building Shell
  • Energy Efficient HVAC System
  • Environmentally Preferable Building Materials
  • Water Conservation
  • Recycling and Waste Management
  • Construction Waste Reduction and Recycling
  • Commissioning

Incorporating these elements into the design and building of construction projects can significantly reduce building, maintenance, and operating costs during the life of the building. Building Life Cycle Cost Software provides an economic analysis of proposed capital investments that are expected to reduce long-term operating costs of buildings or building systems compared to conventional projects.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Ski Areas Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 12/2/2013