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Some Ski Slopes Are (Ecologically) Better Than Others

Some Ski Slopes Are (Ecologically) Better Than Others

[ Tue, 2009-12-01 16:31 ]
How a resort clears its runs can have serious impacts on local ecosystems

How does your favorite ski resort cut its trails? Does it "clear" them, or does it "grade" them? The answer could mean a better environmental report card—or a worse one. A recent study by two researchers out of the University of California–Davis found that grading was much worse for sub-alpine ecosystem health—that is, how the hillside does in terms of erosion control, water retention, soil chemistry and plant diversity. "Grading" a hill levels the slope with a machine, pulling out most of the vegetation and a good chunk of valuable topsoil. A "cleared" trail, meanwhile, means tall, woody vegetation has been removed, but the soil underneath has been left alone. In their study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, the researchers compared graded and cleared runs with nearby patches of undisturbed forest at seven large ski resorts near Lake Tahoe.

Thanks to Conservation Maven for this bit of news.