Mt. Spokane takes last place in ski area study



Posted on January 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 7 at 10:21 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. – The state of Washington is home to ski areas ranked at the very top and bottom of the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition’s recent study on land use.

Stevens Pass Ski Area came in at the top of the list, earning 214.6 points out of 230 points possible. The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition gave Stevens Pass an “A” for its alternative energy improvements. Meanwhile, Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park came in at the bottom of the list, earning 108 of the 230 points possible and an “F” grade from the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition.

The study covers 84 ski areas in the western United States, but not all ski areas are studied. Several resorts tied. Schweitzer Mountain came in ninth overall, earning an “A” with 198 points. Shortly behind, 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort came in 11th place and also received an “A” with 193.2 points out of the 230 points possible.

Lower down on the list, Silver Mountain ranked 61st, receiving a “D” with 134 points. Mount Spokane scored at the very bottom of the list with 108 points.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance spearheaded the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition study for the 2013-2014 season. Sierra Nevada Alliance Senior Program Associate Gavin Feiger said Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park’s proposed expansion was mostly to blame for its poor score.

“Our focus is on land use, wildlife habitat,” Feiger said. “So if a ski area proposes or starts any kind of construction into previously undeveloped land, they lose a lot of points for that. So that’s what Mt. Spokane really got dinged for.”

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Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park’s general manager, Brad McQuarrie, said the grading system is simply arbitrary.

“They’re taking the one piece of expansion and giving us that bad grade and not looking at any of the positives that we’re doing up here, or that expanding a ski resort that’s very close to a large population would, arguably, decrease the overall carbon footprint of people traveling that much further to other ski areas,” McQuarrie said.

Feiger said the survey doesn’t take ski areas’ proximity to cities into account in its study because that is not a variable that existing ski areas can control. Expansions, however, Feiger said are completely within a ski area’s control.

As part of the study, the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition sends every ski area a survey to complete about their own practices on the mountain, such as recycling. Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park did not complete a survey this year, which Feiger said likely negatively impacted its grade. He said filling out the survey may have been enough to move the ski area out of last place, but it likely would’ve still received a poor grade.
Meanwhile, McQuarrie said he is not bothered by the grade. He said he is proud of the improvements Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park continues to make.