Ski resort scorecard

To read the Ski Area Citizen's Coalition scorecard, visit skiareacitizens.com .

Eldora Mountain Resort earns a D in a new scorecard issued by an environmental coalition, but the Boulder County ski area dismisses the low grade due to the group's heavy emphasis on its expansion plans.

The grade for Eldora, with 680 acres of skiable terrain 21 miles west of Boulder, was assigned by the South Lake Tahoe-based Ski Area Citizen's Coalition. That group dished out three other D's in Colorado; those went to the Breckenridge, Monarch and Steamboat resorts.

The report card showed that nearly a third of Western ski resorts the coalition surveyed in 2012 either expanded their terrain or have plans to do so.

"Their grading system is very one-dimensional," Eldora spokesman Rob Linde said Tuesday. "They really take little else into consideration in their scoring.

"It's true that we are in the midst of working with the U.S. Forest Service to add some additional lifts, but we feel as though our impact is very minimal. Again, because of their lopsided scoring system, of course we could get a D."

A spokesman for the coalition did not deny that it counted expansion or plans to expand heavily against resorts.

"Ski area expansions are far and away the No. 1 impact that an area can have," said Josh Pollock, a Denver-based senior program adviser to the coalition. "Going into virgin terrain is essentially creating a new permanent impact in a sensitive environment."

Pollock added, "Most (resorts) are operating in sub-alpine and alpine zones that are really fragile. Cutting new ski runs and adding new infrastructure in previously undisturbed terrain is going to have a significant impact.

Steve Shelp, of Lafayette, has some fun in the mini terrain park on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Eldora Mountain Resort. For a video about the resort’s low
Steve Shelp, of Lafayette, has some fun in the mini terrain park on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at Eldora Mountain Resort. For a video about the resort's low environmental rating go to www.dailycamera.com Jeremy Papasso/ Camera (JEREMY PAPASSO)

"Especially this year, the trend we're seeing across the West is that expansions are back. A little more than a third of the ski areas in the survey are in the process of proposing or pursuing expansion right now."

The other three Colorado resorts to earn D's from the coalition also have announced expansion plans.

Grading methods

As for Eldora's D, that grade is based on the marks that it earned in four separate categories considered by the coalition. And in that regard for Eldora, it was feast or famine.

For the categories of "habitat protection" and "protecting watersheds," it received an A in each. However, for "addressing global climate change" and "environmental policies and practices," it was slapped with F's for both.

In a grading system in which point totals of 77.9 percent to 100 percent equaled an A, Eldora's cumulative score was 57 percent -- the sixth worse of the 84 western resorts surveyed.

The top-rated facility was the Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, at 93 percent. Anchoring rock bottom -- and the only destination scoring below 50 percent -- was the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, at 42.2 percent. Second worst in the overall survey was Breckenridge, at 50.3 percent.

Linde said he respects and does not discount the coalition's efforts. But he is not taking the group's evaluation to heart.

"On any improvements that you make to a ski area, there are going to be impacts," Linde said. "And we feel as though our impacts are minor. And really, the benefits to the Boulder community, the skiing community, far outweigh any of the impacts that would be created through our improvements to the ski area."

'Seems flawed'

Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country USA, said she was "pleased to see more positive recognition of what resorts are doing in the environmental area," but noted that the scorecard "still seems to have a long way to go in terms of accuracy and usefulness."

"I would say that the scoring system seems flawed, in that I would say that the information they use to base the grades on is often speculative and subjective," Rudolph said. "For example, they talk a lot about resort's master development plans, and those have to be submitted far in advance for when they might actually happen -- if they happen at all."

Eldora's proposed growth projects include expanding the ski area's Forest Service special permit boundary, providing two new ski lifts and a number of new trails, increasing the amount of parking on the resort's private lands, expanding snowmaking onto new terrain and constructing new roads and utilities to serve the additional terrain.

Linde said that the Forest Service is conducting an environmental impact study concerning those plans, and Eldora's timetable for carrying through on them remains uncertain, pending the results of that review. The latest indication on when that will be, Linde said, is late spring or early summer.

"I think the later that it happens this year, the more difficult for us to accomplish anything in this calendar year," Linde said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or brennanc@dailycamera.com.