Berkshire East named energy champion by state group

  • A view of the ski slopes at Berkshire East Ski Resort in Charlemont and its wind turbine. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHARTT

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/20/2017 8:47:50 PM

CHARLEMONT — “Snow Champion” might easily describe the Berkshire East Mountain Resort, which can make its own snow if needed. But the fact that Berkshire East can also make all its own electricity from renewable wind and solar power is why the ski resort was named as one of five “Champions of Snow” by the Climate Action Business Association (CABA).

This is a Boston-based group founded in 2013 to help business leaders become more effective advocates for climate change action and set goals for reducing their own carbon footprints. The organization has about 100 member businesses, mostly from Massachusetts.

Berkshire East is one of five New England ski areas that are “tackling climate change and warmer winters head-on,” according to Jamie Garuti, CABA communications manager. “We were truly inspired by Berkshire East, as the only ski resort in the world to generate 100 percent of (its) electricity from onsite renewable energy,” Garuti said.

In 2011, Berkshire East began running a 900-kilowatt-hour wind turbine. And a year later, Berkshire East leased a site to AllEarth Renewables to build an 1,800-panel, 500-kWh solar farm.

General Manager Jonathan Schaefer said the decision to install renewable energy systems at the family-run ski resort was a way for them to carry out their values and to be “as efficient and cost effective with our operations as possible.”

According to CABA, Berkshire East’s renewable energy systems have helped the resort to become more resilient and stay open longer than competitors when the warmer winter weather has shortened the ski season.

The wind turbine alone produces enough energy to power the mountain’s snow guns, which traditionally cost ski resorts a lot of money and produce carbon pollution. Schaefer said by using renewable energy, the cost of using snow guns is mitigated and Berkshire East is able to open the ski area earlier than other resorts.

“To be cleaner and more efficient is to pick up $5 on the ground,” said Schaefer. “That’s what we strive to do at Berkshire East — to be more efficient.”

Besides the energy cost savings, the ski resort now offers nearly year-round activities, including its Mountain Coaster and mountain bike trails, its canopy tour ziplines, and a new aerial park. Schaefer says about 60 percent of the resort’s revenues now comes from the year-round operations.

“All the kids growing up in Charlemont will grow up seeing the wind turbine,” Schaefer remarked. “That becomes the new normal, and the modern economy will be based around renewable energy.”

The other “Champions of Snow” ski resorts were: Mount Abram and Shawnee Park, both of Maine; and Bolton Valley and Mad River Glen, both of Vermont.

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