Towards 100% renewable energy powered ski resorts

Published August 20th, 2016 – Author : Coline Mionnet

Towards 100% renewable energy powered ski resorts

Today, most of ski resorts are concerned with climate change, but only some of them use 100% onsite renewable energy for their operations. Where are they located ? What is their strategy ?

mountain wind turbine

Photo: Licence Creative Commons via

Berkshire East, United States

North-East of the United States, Berkshire East is a four seasons resort located in Charlemont, Massachusetts. With around 1300 residents and 6 lifts, the ski resort hosts more than 100 000 skiers every year. But above all, it is 100% powered by two kinds of renewable energy : solar and wind.

First in 2010, a 900 kWh wind turbine had been installed and in 2013, a 500 kWh solar facility was added, both at the top of Mount Institute. Berkshire East claims it has been the first ski area in the world to generate 100% of its electricity from onsite renewable energy.
The 84 metres wind turbine produces 1.4 million kWh of electricity annually and the solar plant, 700 000 kWh. A system of 1800 photovoltaic panels is equipped with 90 solar trackers which follow the sun from sunrise to sunset. A solar tracker produces 35% to 45% more electricity than a fixed panel. In five years, Berkshire East could already see a return on investment by saving energy costs and succeeded in offering a sustainable snowmaking to skiers.

Visitors or residents can also enjoy a guided visit of the wind turbine. In summer, the year-round resort also offers zipline canopy tours, a mountain coaster, whitewater rafting and a tree house trail in summer. Last July 31st, the 6th annual Clean Energy Festival Tour was organised in Berkshire East, attendees visited the wind turbine and the solar panels field before doing a via ferrata. An entertaining way to raise awareness on renewable energy benefits.

Whiteface Mountain, United States

Whiteface Mountain ski resort is situated in the state of New York, North-East of the United States. To minimize its ecological impact, it has set the bar high.
Over the last three years, 200 low energy and high efficiency snow guns have been installed, allowing to produce more snow in less time and using less energy. Full time use of diesel compressor for snowmaking has been eliminated.

Montagnes Rocheuses Rocky mountains

Last 2015/2016 ski season, Whiteface Mountain ski area operations were 100% powered by renewable energy and a contract aims that it will to continue so over the next four years. The resort pursuing its sustainable development target, a 2.6 MW solar plant is also being installed and will be used for ski lift and snowmaking operations. Whiteface Mountains needs 15 million kW electricity each year, so by switching to 100% renewable energy, it avoids rejecting over 19504 tons of carbon emissions.
As well in new lodges, propane and infrared are used as heat sources, energy efficient LED lighting and zero sort recycling have been implemented.
Aware of the climate change, the Whiteface Mountain team seems particularly committed to preserving its natural ressources, and to make innovation and sustainability its leading priorities.

Aspen, United States

Today, Aspen city’s electric system uses 100% renewable energy including 46% hydroelectric, 53% purchased wind power and 1% landfill gas (methanisation from organic waste).

It receives its wind energy from four wind farms located in the close states of Nebraska and South Dakota. And since 2008, the 92 kW photovoltaic system on the water treatment plant generated more than 314 000 kWh of electricity, enough to power 27 homes for a year. In total, the rejection of 197 tons of greenhouse gas emissions has been avoided.
Convinced of the economic viability of renewable energy integration, the city of Aspen hopes their model will be adapted worldwide. In 2007, Aspen’s City Council adopted the « Canary Action Plan » which commits to reducing the town’s emissions by 30% in 2020 and by 80% in 2050, compared to 2004 levels.

Aspen ZGreen Program
To help people of Aspen’s community organise sustainable local events, the City freely lends the Sunny, Aspen’s portable solar PV system. It provides 500 watts to 2 500 watts of power and includes batteries for power storage and a cord to connect it to the grid for back-up power.
The « Canary Initiative »
Since high mountain towns like Aspen suffer the effects of climate change before others because of the melting of glaciers, the Canary Initiative shares Aspen’s message of climate action to residents and visitors. They regularly organise events to raise people’s awareness about this subject.

Jiminy Peak Resort, United States

Jiminy Peak Resort, located in Massachusetts, have begun the production of onsite renewable energy quite early. In 2007, the 4 seasons resort invested $4 million to set up a 1.5 MW wind turbine on the mountain, which produces about 4600 MW every year. Then, in 2012, a 75 kW cogeneration unit was installed by EOS Ventures. It generates 400 kWh of power annually and provides hot water for the Country Village Inn.

Last summer, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort agreed to set up its first community solar plant with its owner company, Nexamp. The 2.3 MW Nexamp Peak plant, covering 12 acres near the resort base and counting 7500 solar panels, helps power the ski area lifts, lights and snow guns.
Moreover, by subscribing to a share of Nexamp Peak through Nexamp’s Community Solar Program, residents, small businesses and nonprofit organisations can save 15% on their electricity bill without needing solar equipment or long-term commitment.
Combined with the wind turbine and the cogeneration unit, this solar plant enables Jiminy Peak Resort to get closer to energy self-sufficiency by powering 90% of its energy needs from local renewable ressources.

Laax, Switzerland

South-East of Zurich in Switzerland, Laax has committed to producing all its energy consumption by a CO2 neutral way. 100% of Laax needed electricity is currently produced by hydroelectric power and solar power plants on top of the mountain. For example, the solar plant of Alp Sogn Martin produces power for La Siala gondola. Moreover, solar panels have been installed on top of all new lift stations in the ski resort.

Laax Greenstyle РYouTube Vid̩o

A project of wind farm on the Vorab Glacier is also studied, with the potential to produce energy for about 5 000 households, enough to supply Laax territory.

But that’s not all ! The Rock Resort designed hotels in Laax are fully heated by wood pellets, and other hotels in the area are planning to do the same.
With Youtube videos and informations given onsite and on the web, Laax tries to raise awareness through their « I Am Pro Snow » project. This worldwide campaign aims to promote climate change solutions so that we and our grandchildren can keep on skiing on fresh snow in future winters.

More than 30 ski resorts using 100% renewable energy, France

About 30 French mountain resorts have approved an agreement certifying that 100% of the electricity they are provided with comes from renewable energy sources, mostly hydrolelectric power.
In the North Alps : Val d’Isere, Courchevel, Valfrejus, Areches-Beaufort, Les Gets ; in the Pyrenees : the four resorts of Altiservice group, Font Romeu Pyrenees 2000, Saint-Lary Soulan, Guzet, Artouste, all signed this kind of agreement with EDF (Electricité de France) or GDF (Gaz de France) groups.
In 13 mountain resorts owned by the Compagnie des Alpes, 91% of the electricity provided to their ski areas comes from renewable energy sources : Les Arcs ; Meribel, La Plagne, Serre Chevalier Vallee, Tignes, Peysey Vallandry, Samoens, Morillon, Sixt Fer a Cheval, Les Menuires, Flaine, Val d’Isere and Les 2 Alpes.

Furthermore, 48 French ski resorts signed the « National Charter of Ski resorts for Sustainable Development », drafted by Mountain Riders Association and the ANMSM, French National Association of Mountain Resorts Mayors.
This Charter is built around 8 action plans and 130 commitments such as sustainable planning of the mountain territories, sustainable development of building, transports and tourism, or the preservation of natural landscapes and spaces.

For example, among many other actions for sustainable development, Areches-Beaufort, a Savoie mountain resort, uses solar panels to power equipments such as radio relays and Gazex preventive system of avalanche triggering. In Haute-Savoie, Les Gets ski resort also installed solar panels on lifts stations, and that is only a beginning.
As in many ski resorts in winter, the SkiBus linking their small villages is free for the resort’s residents and tourists.

These last ten years, renewable energy has known a sharp increase in ski and mountain areas. No such data seems to exist on the web but Innov Mountains would be thankful to get precise figures, so please feel free to contact us if you do !

Sources & links

Renewable energy in Whiteface Mountain

Renewable energy in Berkshire East

Renewable energy in Aspen

Sunny Solar Roller in Aspen

Renewable energy in Jiminy Peak Resort

French ski resorts and renewable energy

Altiservice certifications

Compagnie des Alpes

EDF accompagne la Compagnie des Alpes

Related posts:

Special Report Part 1 : « Sustainable innovations in mountain areas »

Special Report Part 2 : « Sustainable innovations in mountain areas »