As winters grow warmer and snowfall becomes less consistent, one ski resort is taking matters into its own hands.
The Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont, Massachusetts just became the first in the country to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. By powering its operations—including snow machines—with solar and wind energy, Berkshire East will be able to offset the effects of climate change without contributing to it.
The resort added a 500kW solar farm to supplement the 900kW wind turbine it installed in 2011. Combined, the two are expected to produce 1.4 million kWh annually—enough to eliminate its outside energy costs.
“We view on-site renewable as a hedge against the rising price of power,” said Berkshire East spokesman Jon Schaefer. “Energy is our largest non-labor expense and it’s the one thing we are most dependent on beyond the snow.”
Shaefer expects the $2.8 million system, funded in part by government credits and grants, to pay for itself in the next five to seven years, he told ESPN.com.
Ski resorts are (one of the many) canaries in the coal mine when it comes to global warming. If current trends hold up, climate change threatens to shut down large swaths of the winter sports industry in the U.S. by mid-century, especially in the Northeast. According to one study, not a single ski area will be economically viable in the Berkshires by 2039.
If more ski areas follow Berkshire East’s example, that prediction may not be as dire.