A big part of sustainability is understanding the need to address the challenges posed by the changing climate, and challenges posed by increased visitation in both the summer and winter seasons.
Alta is committed to respecting its environment, conserving energy, and working to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. Managing the ski area's carbon footprint is essential to a sustainable Alta.
Solar Panels at Alta
In cooperation with Rocky Mountain Power and DwellTek (the installation company), Alta Ski Area has installed 98 solar panels at three different locations. Installed in 2015, these solar panels have helped Alta rely more heavily on year-round renewable energy.
Since their installation, the solar panels have helped offset 94 tons of carbon emissions, roughly the equivalent of planting an additional 2,190 trees.
Next time you're at Alta, keep an eye out for the solar panels soaking up the sun at the following locations:
- The ski patrol structure at the top of Collins lift
- On the roof of the Cat Shop at the east end of the Albion parking lot
- The Buckhorn building, home to Alta Ski Area offices, employee cafeteria and employee housing
Food Waste Collection Program
Food waste collection efforts at Alta Ski Area started in the spring of 2019 with our first food waste collection pilot program. Food waste was taken to Wasach Resource Recovery, a large-scale food digester located in North Salt Lake. During this pilot program, Alta employees were driving the food waste down the canyon to Wasatch Resource Recovery. A total of 6,400 pounds (or 3.2 tons) of food waste was diverted during the 2019 pilot program.
After a little hiatus, Alta Ski Area, in collaboration with Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, implemented a second food waste collection pilot program in March 2021 to send all of our compostable waste to Wild Harvest Farms, a large-scale composting facility in Peoa, Utah. Wild Harvest Farms is able to accept both food waste and compostable disposables, which was especially crucial given COVID-19 requirements around the use of disposable containers in restaurants. In addition, Snowbird and Alta partnered with Momentum Recycling to haul the waste to Wild Harvest Farms. At Wild Harvest Farms, food waste and compostable disposables are being composted into a nutrient-rich end product.
When food waste and compostable materials go into the landfill, the waste is unable to decompose because it is covered by other waste creating an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment which results in the release of methane. In comparison, when this waste goes into the compost pile at Wild Harvest Farms, it goes through an aerobic process (oxygen-rich) where waste is able to break down, which releases carbon dioxide (CO2). It is true that both methane and CO2 are greenhouse gases. However, methane is estimated to have a global warming potential (GWP) of 28 to 36 over 100 years, while CO2 has a GWP of 1 over the same time period.
By taking our waste to Wild Harvest Farms, not only are we lowering the greenhouse emissions caused by our waste, but we are also helping to create nutrient-rich fertilizer which can be used in gardening and farming operations.
Alf’s, Albion Grill, all the dining locations at Watson Shelter, and the Buckhorn employee kitchen took part in both pilot programs. Thanks to all of our dining managers and staff for their heroic effort to make this program a success! From the beginning of March 2021 through the end of April 2021, an estimated 16,500 pounds (or 8.25 tons) of food waste and compostable disposables were diverted from the landfill at the ski area during the second food waste collection pilot program.
LEED Silver Certified Building
The Skier Services building located at the Wildcat base area was awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification following its construction in 2012. LEED certification is a globally recognized green building rating system. The LEED certification system provides a framework for designing healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. Alta's Skier Services building received the LEED Silver Certification based on various interior and exterior design components including:
- Building Envelope Design. The building envelope was designed to be tight; meaning, the walls and windows were designed to keep unwanted heat loss or gain at a minimum to keep the building as energy efficient as possible. The windows installed have low U-factors, or rate of heat loss, further helping to keep unwated heat loss or gain at a minimum.
- Sustainable Materials. A lot of thought was put into the exterior and interior design of this building. All wood used during construction is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified, which is often considered the "gold standard" for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, provide social benefit, are environmentally conscious, and economically viable. The Öko siding used on the exterior of the building is made of highly durable concrete, is fire resistant, requries no painting, and requires little to no maintenance. Low emitting solvents and paints were used in the interior of the building, and the carpet is made of recycled material.
- New Central Plant. The efficiency of the existing mechanical and electrical equipment for the Buckhorn and Lifthaus buildings, the older buildings attached to the Skier Services building, were upgraded during construction of the Skier Services building. Alta Ski Area saw an opportunity to create a "central plant" to not only serve the Skier Services building, but also to serve the attached Buckhown and Lifthaus buildings. Creating a central plant for these three buildings resulted in the replacement of old, inefficient mechanical and electrical equipment that served the Buckhorn and Lifthaus with new, more efficient heating, water, and electricity equipment for all three buildings.
- Automated and Controlled Heating. Variable frequency drive pumps, 95% efficient boilers, computerized monitoring and automatic adjustments, and modulated valves provide for more efficient use of water. Fixtures chosen for the Skier Services building use at least 20% less water compared to fixtures within older Alta Ski Area buildings.
Electric Vehicle Chargers
Alta Ski Area has two Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers through the Leaders For Clean Air EV charger program. One EV charger is located on the east end of the Albion Day Lodge and the second EV charger is located in the front row of the Wildcat parking lot.
Annual Sustainability Report
In order to keep the public up-to-date on Alta's sustainability efforts, including its carbon footprint reduction efforts, the Alta Environmental Center produces an annual sustainability report.