Telluride Colorado

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Environmental initiatives

Committed to the environment

Telluride is often described as one of the most beautiful places in the world, situated within a box canyon and surrounded by majestic Rocky Mountain peaks. Our environment is also our livelihood, and we intend to apply strong moral and ecological ethics to the stewardship of our natural resources, while taking a leadership role in the heightened environmental education and awareness of our guests, community, and employees.

The Telluride Ski & Golf Resort’s environmental work has evolved through the years to cover a broad range of conservation initiatives and educational endeavors.  The well-balanced program has won acclaim within the ski industry, including the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence, the Regional Forester’s Caring for the Land Stewardship Award, and certification in Audubon International’s acclaimed Cooperative Sanctuary System program for golf courses.  Telluride Ski Resort collaborates with the United States Forest Service, the surrounding Telluride and Mountain Village communities, as well as San Miguel County, to together find solutions that will sustain the region’s economic, cultural and environmental health. 


Watershed Protection

Telski has set a standard in the region for best management practices applied to watershed protection since wetland restoration efforts began to take place on the golf course in 1997. Since then, the resort has made watershed protection a priority and will continue to implement monitoring programs that ensure resort operations do not adversely impact water quality.

  • 40+ acres of successful wetland restoration and enhancement on and off-site. Hosted Colorado Riparian Association conference in 2000 to highlight restoration successes.
  • Prospect Basin Fen Protection Program with ongoing academic and scientific study (see San Juan Fens Partnership details below).
  • Perpetual conservation easements on all wetlands within resort lands and Mountain Village (100+ acres).
  • Wetlands Management Plan including extensive BMP’s for golf course and ski area that must be studied and signed by every field worker and contractor to Telluride Ski Resort.
  • Hydrologic Assessment of ski area, complete baseline mapping of all surface waterways to identify erosion and stormwater issues and prioritize restoration projects (see details below).
  • Complete water quality testing on all streams before, during, and after flowing through golf course as part of Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System program.
  • Comparative water quality analyses on neighboring Bear and Turkey creeks as related to Prospect Creek before and after trail development activities.
  • Environment-sensitive 2001 Prospect Bowl expansion using several innovative construction techniques including helicopter and hand logging, stump grinding, wood chipping, rock crushing, preservation of wildlife connectivity and more.
  • Only native seed mixes used for revegetation.
  • On-mountain vegetation cover analysis to develop best approaches for increasing vegetative cover on ski runs.
  • Comprehensive weed control program throughout ski area and golf course.
  • Bark beetle monitoring and control program with Forest Service.
  • Earth-friendly hydraulic and other oils used in machinery.

Hydrologic Assessment

Our resort prides itself on its application of watershed protection practices to resort operations, and is working on a complete assessment of the ski area to identify areas of hydrologic impact caused by ski trail and road construction. The hydrologic assessment will provide a complete understanding of the hydrologic regime of the lands within the Telluride Ski Area. Mapping of all surface waterways and their complete drainage network serves as a basemap for the assessment, with specific channel reaches being rated using a system that incorporates geomorphic and ecological characteristics to identify potential watershed restoration, mitigation, and enhancement sites, or sites that should be protected. This process is used to prioritize sites in an effort to reduce sediment discharge and other impacts to downstream environments within Telluride’s San Miguel Watershed.

San Juans Fen Partnership

Telluride Ski Resort's award-winning Prospect Bowl expansion in 2001 utilized several innovative trail construction techniques to minimize erosion of new trails and avoid impacts to riparian areas, preserve the natural feeling of the mountain, and protect the habitat of the locally reintroduced lynx. Borne as a result of the expansion, scientific studies of high alpine fens were begun to better understand these important ecosystems that exist in Prospect Basin and throughout the San Juan Mountains.

Fens are wetlands that are rich in organic peat matter and that support remarkable and rare plant and animal life. The Prospect Basin fens, like many in the San Juans, represent unique ecological niches. In Prospect Basin, the age of the fens stretch back in time approximately 10,000 years. Since many of the wetland plants associated with fens are clonal, these fens provide a valuable baseline source of information on climate, plants, insects, carbon sequestration, and other useful characteristics of mountain environments over time.

Telluride Ski Resort supports the continued education, scientific monitoring and analyses of the Prospect Basin fens and those existing in the San Juan Mountains so that they can be safeguarded throughout our national forests. The San Juans Fen Partnership supports a high level of fen protection in the current Grand Mesa Uncompahgre (GMUG) National Forest and San Juan National Forest management plan revisions that are now taking place in southwestern Colorado. Additionally, the Partnership intends to incorporate outreach training for these and other land managers into the fen studies to ensure their continued protection.

Made up of the Town of Mountain Village, the Town of Telluride, San Miguel County, Telluride Ski & Golf Resort, Sheep Mountain Alliance, Colorado State University, Mountain Studies Institute and the local community at-large, the Partnership is working closely with the United States Forest Service, which manages much of the high country in the San Juan Mountains, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has been providing grants to identify and study the fens.

The Prospect Basin fen studies at the Telluride Ski Resort are the only studies of their type being performed in the United States. The San Juans Fen Partnership oversees further scientific research, monitoring and analyses of the fens in the San Juans region, as well as continued popular education about fens and their importance to local forest and alpine ecology. Dr. David Cooper, PhD., of Colorado State University directs the scientific studies and monitoring programs of fens throughout the San Juan Mountains.

For more information about Dr. Cooper’s scientific fen research, visit www.mountainstudies.org/research.


Air quality

Telluride Ski Resort and Mountain Village have been praised for solving access challenges with the gondola and chondola, and Dial-A-Ride shuttle programs.  Biodeisel fuel is being tested in larger quantities for use on the mountain and is currently used in small quantities in snowcats, in golf course utility vehicles and for summertime mountain maintenance, while the Telski supports the planning and construction of a biodeisel plant to serve the surrounding four-corners region is being studied. The resort is investigating incentives for carpooling and visitor mass transit, and implementing fuel-reduction programs for snowmobiles, snow cats and all resort vehicles. 

  • Telluride’s free gondola transportation system reduces need for 8-mile drive between the Mountain Village and Telluride.  Approximately 2 million people (and pets) ride the “G” each year.
  • The innovative Chondola system – with one gondola cabin per three lift chairs - provides free public transportation for workers from the densely populated Meadows area to Mountain Village and Telluride.
  • The free, on-demand Dial-A-Ride taxi service is available to residents and guests of Mountain Village throughout the year.
  • In conjunction with the gondola system, a free six-level parking structure was built to accommodate over 400 cars, to access the ski area and promote car-free travel throughout Mountain Village.
  • Employee shuttles are run to neighboring towns of Montrose and Norwood that save approximately 500,000 miles driven per year.
  • A year-round pedestrian trail system exists throughout Mountain Village, to connect residential and hotel areas with gondola transportation systems. 
  • The ski resort has purchased and will begin to phase 4-stroke snowmobiles into their fleet, to reduce air and noise pollution and assist with fuel reduction.
  • Biodeisel is being used and tested in golf cart tractors and summertime mountain equipment.
  • 165 units of low income housing have been developed and are managed by the Telluride Ski & Golf Resort.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

Perhaps the most challenging category of resource management, Telluride Ski Resort maintains an average amount of diversion of waste from local landfills (approx 15-20 percent).  The resort continues to focus on improving the implementation and enforcement of the recycling program throughout resort, and has begun to implement a centralized, green purchasing program. Restaurants use recycled or sugar and corn-based paper plates and bowls, and natural corn plastic utensils and cups.  Telluride Ski Resort recycled approximately 100 tons per year.

  • Programs in place to recycle glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, construction waste, metals, newspaper, electronics and paper products throughout resort.
  • Participation in regional San Miguel Recycling Task Force (5 years).
  • Use of recycled paper products, biodegradable plasticware and cups, and sugar or corn-based paper plates and bowls in all restaurant facilities.
  • Elimination of triplicate purchase orders in Accounting department.
  • Switch from direct mailings to e-mail marketing strategies.
  • Purchase of recycled paper products in all facilities.
  • Elimination of Styrofoam products in food services.
  • Aqueous parts washer in maintenance facilities. 
  • Recycle anti-freeze from maintenance shops.
  • Spent motor oils reused to heat maintenance facility. 
  • Bio-degradable, corn and wheat-based plasticware used in restaurants (but without a composting program, plastics still go to landfill). 
  • Progress with paperless accounting through new RTP accounting software. 

Water Conservation

Telluride Ski Resort uses approximately 80 million gallons of water a year for ski resort operations, with about 75 million of those gallons used for snowmaking.  We are in the process a phased redesign of our snowmaking system to improve efficiency and broken lines are identified, repaired or replaced seasonally. The golf course used about 30 million gallons per season. 

  • Updated irrigation system ($.5 million) on golf course to allow for more efficient watering.  Estimated savings of 30 percent electricity and water. 
  • Over $3 million for purchase of new, efficient snowmaking guns to conserve water and energy.
  • Construction of two snowmaking storage ponds to increase efficiency and protect water sources during low-flow times of year.  
  • Replacing broken snowmaking lines on Misty Maiden and Meadows. 
  • 5-year master plan for snowmaking system to replace compressor house and increase air pressure efficiency, energy and water usage.  Will reduce need to use snowmobiles and fuel to turn system off and on and will be automated. 

Energy conservation

While our improved snowmaking and irrigation equipment saves a significant amount of energy, Telluride Ski Resort continues to research and develop alternative fuel and energy sources and to implement company-wide conservation measures to further reduce the resort’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Telluride Ski Resort consistently encourages energy conservation throughout the resort and replaces appliances and lights with newer, more efficient models. 

  • Renewable energy feasibility study performed with Mountain Village to study options for utilization of solar
  • Renewable energy feasibility study underway with Mountain Village to study options for utilization of solar, hydro and wind power resources.
  • Energy audits completed with San Miguel Power Association.
  • $15,000 dedicated to retrofits for 2005 (capital cut off before completed).
  • New golf course irrigation system reduces energy by 25 percent its first year.  
  • New snowmaking equipment increased energy efficiency.  
  • Energy audits available to provide baseline information for energy initiatives (4 years).  
  • Energy-efficient copy machines purchased for offices.  
  • Phased lighting retrofits for all facilities in progress.  High Camp, Gorrono, vehicle Maintenance shop complete.  
  • Passive solar incorporated into newer High Camp restaurant.  
  • Motion sensors installed in Plaza restrooms and external lighting of Mtn .Ops. 
  • Upgraded and replaced forced air heat with radiant heaters in lift terminals.  Lifts 12 complete with lifts 4 and 5 in 2007.  Also installed timers.
  • Replace heater in lift maintenance building with waste oil heater run by used fryer grease.  
  • Partnership with ClifBar and BEF to purchase wind power for lift 4.
  • Green tags sold at ticket windows in 06/07, 500 purchased, money goes to BEF.  
  • Replacement of electrical heating system at Gorrono with gas furnace.  Will improve efficiency by estimated 40 percent.  Replaced 4 old electric hot water heaters with 2 new gas tanks.

Awards

Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence

Overall Environmental Excellence 2002 - Prospect Bowl Expansion

Coveted award given from National Ski Areas Association and resource partners for proven environmentally-friendly resort operations.

Silver Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Protection 2006  - San Juan Fens Partnership

Annual conservation award given from National Ski Areas Association and resource partners for habitat-sensitive resort operations.

Silver Eagle Award Finalist for Environmental Education

Snowshoe Stewards 2009-Environmental Science Program

High School and Middle School students trained to be snowshoe guides leading and educating their peers in the field. Curriculum is supported by teachers at the school, incorporating specific topics in the classroom prior to in-the-field training.

Regional Forester’s “Caring for the Land” Stewardship Award - 2002

Nominated by Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest for sustained support in Forest Service programs, leader in environmental sensitivity and willingness to try new approaches to resource stewardship. 

Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International - 2004

Acclaimed international program requires demonstration that resort maintains a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas. The Telluride Golf Course has been a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 2002, meeting strict criteria for water conservation, habitat protection, biodiversity conservation, reduced chemical use and water quality management.

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