A Place in the Sun

The world's first ski resort to run on 100 percent renewable energy hopes it will inspire more resorts to follow suit.

As skiers, we pray for snow. And at Colorado’s Wolf Creek, they also pray for bluebird days—for good reason. The family-owned ski area has become the first in the world to convert to 100 percent renewable energy thanks to a new 25-acre solar farm.

“We were really excited about going solar,” says Rosanne Pitcher, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Wolf Creek and a member of the Pitcher family, which owns the resort. “It’s been great so far. It’s been very reliable for us, and we’ve had very consistent power. We hope that we’re a good model for other businesses that are interested in going this route.”

What’s surprising is not that a ski resort finally converted to 100 percent renewable energy—it’s that the first ski resort to do so is one of the few family-owned, community ski hills still standing in an era of acquisitions and buyouts. Wolf Creek Ski Area, outside the town of Pagosa Springs, is known for its abundant powder, minimal crowds, and 1,600 acres of skiable terrain—much of it advanced and expert glades, steeps, and hike-to bowls. What Wolf Creek doesn’t have is the deep pockets, environmental consultants, and political influence of a large corporation.

Yet the ski area has been ahead of the eight-ball for over a decade, purchasing its electricity with 100 percent wind offsets since 2006, running snowcats on biodegradable grapeseed oil, and constructing zero-discharge water-free restrooms. Now this new partnership between the Pitchers and the San Luis Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, struck last fall, created a 25-acre solar farm, the Penitente Solar Project, located 50 miles from the ski area. This allows Wolf Creek to run entirely on solar during the day, and on wind at night.

“Ski resorts consume a ton of energy, there’s really no way around that,” says Pitcher. “And some resorts, like Wolf Creek, operate under a special use permit. We think we owe it to the public, and the environment, to do our part and keep our mountains available to everyone, now and in the future. We’re happy to be leaders in the industry. It’s what we all should be doing.”

Originally published in the November 2018 issue of SKI Magazine.