Snow skiers and boarders will soon breathe a little easier on the Southern California slopes.
Under million in state grants, operators at both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain in Big Bear Lake near Los Angeles will be installing new snow-making equipment that will reduce air pollution and save energy.
“Diesel particulate emissions are responsible for 70 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution in our region," said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is providing the money.
The project will benefit both visitors to the resorts and Big Bear residents by reducing a number of pollutants, including hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, as well as diesel soot, according to the SCAQMD.
Key to the cleanup effort is a shift at the resorts to new airless snow-making guns from compressed air guns, according to Richard Kun, spokesperson for Snow Summit Corp., which is in the process of purchasing Bear Mountain.
Because the airless equipment requires less energy to operate, it will cut the need for the resorts to use portable diesel engines, thereby reducing emissions.
Kun said that Snow Summit already has been using eight airless guns for snow making and will add more for the coming winter.
The shift is one step in a long-term plan the resorts are working out with SCAQMD to reduce diesel emissions, he said. The overall plan will likely take two or three years to carry out.
Bear Mountain is completing a .4 million project to move to the new airless snow-making guns, according to Brad Farmer, spokesperson of the resort.
“Last season we had a trial and it was very successful,” he said. This season, the resort will use the new guns for 50% of its snow-making operations, which will cut energy use by about 65%.
“By reducing our energy use overall, we can reduce our use of onsite diesel power,” he said. “The new guns are quieter too.”
So far, cleanup of air pollution from ski resort equipment remains a novel idea being pursued only in Southern California.
In the Lake Tahoe area, a spokesperson for the El Dorado County Air Pollution Control District said that environmental officials in the northern California ski resort area have no plans to fund cleanup of similar equipment.
However, Farmer said that as other ski resorts seek to cut their energy bills -- which have soared in recent years – they inevitably will turn to the new airless snow-making guns.