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Ski resorts doing their part for global warming

Whistler-Blackcomb still pursuing green energy projects on the mountains



American ski resorts are proving up to the challenge in doing their part to combat climate change, but Whistler-Blackcomb may be going the extra mile.

Rather than purchase green energy at a premium, as Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing Co. recently announced, the company is trying to create its own renewable energy in the heart of their mountain operations. Their goal: to produce enough energy to match what they consume.

The long-talked about run of river project on Fitzsimmons Creek is still on the table and if tests prove favourable in the next year, a wind farm could also be in the cards.

While Whistler-Blackcomb’s manager of mountain planning and environmental resources, Arthur DeJong, commends the American resorts, he believes Whistler-Blackcomb can set the bar even higher.

"Maybe Aspen and Vail don’t have the opportunity to do a run of the river or a wind farm and this is the highest they can reach, and again, I just so applaud it," said DeJong this week in the wake of Vail’s energy announcement. "But I know technically, because the engineering has approved it, that we can reach higher – it is possible.

"We can actually produce what we consume within our own operating footprint."

One project alone could help them achieve just that – a micro-hydroelectric project on the Fitzsimmons Creek.

The project has been through its ups and down ever since B.C. Hydro agreed to purchase energy from the waters of the creek in 2001. Since then, the project developers, Ledcor Power, have been struggling to bring the project to light.

Conflicts arose after Whistler and Vancouver won the right to host the 2010 Olympics when the run of river project fell in the path of the Whistler Sliding Centre – the $99.9 million bobsled/luge track being built for the Games. Though the goal was to piggyback construction of the sliding centre, it has moved ahead while the independent power project has stalled.

Whistler-Blackcomb has been adamant that a right of way for the IPP’s pipe be part of the sliding centre’s design. With that option built in, DeJong is staying hopeful the power project can be developed in the near future.

"It’s the most significant sustainability project we could ever do within our tenured area," he said.

"Whistler-Blackcomb wants to see the project actually happen and whatever partnership arrangement it takes to get it there, our door is open."

Ledcor engineer Kelly Boychuk said they still want to develop the project.

"It’s still an active file," he said. "It’s collecting no dust."