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Well, Duh


Quick eco fixes for mountain resorts.

Story and photograph by Berne Broudy

One winter Richard Travers sat at his kitchen table in Vermont listening to the buzz of the compressor in his commercial refrigerator. Not only was the white noise ruining the wintry silence, but it also made little sense. Travers thought: Why am I using electricity to generate refrigeration inside when it’s below freezing outside?

In short order, Travers cut two holes in the fridge, linking them to the outdoors via a metal duct to circulate cold air in. Then he installed thermostats to measure the inside air temperature so the compressor only fired up when needed.

The experiment saved money and electricity, and inspired Freeaire, the refrigeration retrofit company Travers founded. Since 1990, Travers and his team have installed Freeaire in everything from a Boston brewer to a New Hampshire egg farm to Vermont’s Killington Resort. For walk-in fridges larger than 1,000 cubic feet, whether it’s in a ski lodge or a convenience store, Freeaire saves 25 to 50 percent on energy, which translates to more than 80,000 pounds of carbon per fridge, plus thousands of dollars in electricity.

Travers’ idea to use cold air for cooling is not the only simpleton fix for mountain resorts.

Light Switch: Bet you thought swapping incandescent for energy-efficient lightbulbs was a done deal—you do it at home, right? But luxury resorts sometimes fear fluorescent bulbs and five star hotels don’t go hand in hand. However, a lighting retrofit can save 75 percent on energy use, since fluorescents or LEDs last 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs. This conserves energy, employee time, and money through less frequent replacements. Next up: In Europe, when you leave your hotel room the lights (all of them) automatically go off until you return. Duh.

Efficient Snowmaking: Over 60 percent of a ski area’s annual energy usage is for snowmaking. Low-energy snow guns use a fraction of the compressed air and energy of older models—4 to 5 cubic feet per minute of compressed air versus 100 to 300 cubic feet per minute. At Mount Snow, 251 low-e fan guns reduced the area’s diesel use by 200,000 gallons annually. Eliminating air leaks in miles of snow gun pipes and reducing water overflow at line’s end also boosts energy efficiency. Learn more at efficiencyvermont.com.

Car Park: A recent study of French ski areas showed that 57 to 73 percent of greenhouse gases at ski areas was not generated by snowmaking or lift operations, but by guest’s cars. Some European ski resorts are providing excellent eco transportation and limiting car use. In North America, destination skiers and most day-trippers don’t need a car at resorts like Deer Valley, Stowe, Big Sky, or Squaw. But stateside, resorts may need incentives like discount lift tickets to get car-minded Americans on the shuttle bus.

From the Spring 2012 issue.

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