When is a ski resort not a ski resort? When it’s a water park, or perhaps a conference center.
An article in the Burlington Free Press reports on new developments at Vermont’s Jay Peak Ski Resort, designed to make the area a year-round destination rather than just a winter playground. For example, a heated indoor water park with a pool, water slides, and artificial waves for surfing is crowded even when it’s freezing outside. Plans also call for additional ski trails to be built, along with amenities like more hotels, restaurants, a conference center, and an indoor ice rink.
The resort has benefited from federal grants designed to lower unemployment, and it has achieved that result. Other ski resorts in the area are undergoing similar changes, hoping to attract visitors in all seasons. The question for some in the area, though, is whether a mountaintop is the best place for such development and the increased traffic it will bring.
As the article points out, water-quality problems that can be exacerbated by any sort of development are often magnified at higher altitudes. Sediment that’s dislodged is carried “all the way down the watershed,” and alpine areas often have pristine waters with sensitive species that are easily disturbed. The Jay Peak resort might be more attuned than some to these issues; it has already run up against environmental laws, paying state and federal fines after violating permits during the construction of a golf course in 2005.
While some groups, such as the Vermont Natural Resources Council, would prefer to see structures like conference centers appearing at lower altitudes, proponents of the new projects point out that much of the land under development has already been cleared for parking and other uses; it’s not all pristine habitat that’s being disturbed. Some resorts, the article points out, have taken innovative steps to handle runoff from development, such as capturing stormwater and using it to make snow. (A 2008 article in Stormwater included a section on constructed wetlands being used to treat runoff from condominiums at the Jay Peak Ski Resort.)
Do you think measures to limit environmental damage in sensitive environments are enough, or should new construction in such areas be limited?