Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps


sustainable development

Dinner Plain polo field to be ditched?

The proposal for a ‘village green’ in the alpine village of Dinner Plain would have seen almost 2 hectares of snow gum woodland cleared and significant visual impacts on the village. After a long consultation and planning process, the Alpine Council needs to take a final decision on whether to proceed with the development.

In a welcome move, Council Officers who have been assessing the concept report that there is ‘not majority community support for this project’ and recommend that it should not proceed. Council will take a final decision at a meeting on Monday December 18.

Continue reading “Dinner Plain polo field to be ditched?”

Clean energy to power Mt Stirling facilities

The Victorian government has announced a renewable energy project at Mt Stirling, which will allow the resort to switch its system from its current reliance on diesel. Additional commitments include toilets and ‘community shelters’ at Howqua Gap and the Machinery Shed, and an ‘all- weather access track’ from King Saddle to Machinery Shed.

Continue reading “Clean energy to power Mt Stirling facilities”

A ‘MCG’ sized oval at Dinner Plain?

There has been a long planning process around how the alpine village of Dinner Plain should be developed. Most businesses struggle with the extremely seasonal nature of the tourist trade, and residents can struggle because the small number of permanents makes it difficult to sustain basic services like the supermarket through out the year.

Continue reading “A ‘MCG’ sized oval at Dinner Plain?”

Ski resorts go renewable


The following comes from the ESPN Action Sports website and shows what is possible with a bit of effort and vision.

Panels at McMillan Lodge, Mt Hotham, VIC

As the environmental agenda continues to slip from the concerns of most resort management bodies in Australia, it has been the snow sports community who have stepped into a leadership position, with a large number of lodges and businesses signing up for solar PV panels over the past year, especially at Mt Hotham.

The following is the introduction to the article, please check the website for the full piece.

The author is Jesse Huffman.

U.S. ski resorts tap renewable energy sources to combat climate change

As the volatility of the 2011-12 season made clear, the stake ski resort’s have in resolving climate change is a big one. Over the past three years, resorts like Bolton, Burke, Jiminy Peak and Grouse Mountain have installed wind turbines, while others have pursued efficiency updates, in an effort to responsibly produce, and reduce, the power and heat involved in swinging chairs and heating lodges all winter long. Now, four more areas, from local ski hills in the Northeast to major resorts in the Rockies, have installed or invested in renewable power sources ranging from solar to biomass to coalmine methane.

Smuggler’s Notch closed early this winter after a spring meltdown saw the highest March temperatures in Vermont’s history. The same solar energy that drove skiers and riders batty as it took away their snow is now being put to use by an array of 35 solar trackers, which collectively produce 205,000 kWh per year — around five percent of Smuggler’s total electrical use. The array provides enough juice for most of the resort’s Village Lodge.

Dan Maxon, Smuggler’s Notch Solar Installation Project Manager, toured me through the installation on a recent morning, when the GPS-enabled trackers, manufactured by a Vermont company called ALLEarth Renewables, were tilted east to catch the a.m. sun.

“We believe it is important not only for ski resorts, but for all energy users to take some responsibility for their energy consumption,” Maxon told me. “There was a good confluence of energy and desire that made this project come together — we’d been looking at various renewable projects for six-seven years, but couldn’t pull them off. This one we could.”

Aspen is often seen as being one of the greenest of the global resorts, so I have included the section of the essay that relates to them. Coal bed methane is a fiercely contested issue across many parts of the world, so Aspen’s choice of energy source is interesting:

In Colorado, Aspen Ski Company is taking a leading role in developing an innovative form of clean energy from coalmine methane. The practice of venting methane from coalmines to prevent underground explosions has turned into a climate change bottleneck with 20 times more warming potential than CO2, coalmine methane contributed ten percent of the all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, according to the EPA.

Aspen is the capital investor in a new project at Elk Creek Mine that uses waste methane to power a dynamo and generate electricity, downgrading the methane to CO2 and at the same time. The project is a first of its scale in the United States, and helped net the resort a National Ski Area Association Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence this year.

“We’ve been looking for a large scale clean energy project for over a decade and we finally found one,” says Auden Schendler, Aspen Vice President of Sustainability.

Schendler expects the 3 megawatt project to go online around September, and says that in a matter of month it will make approximately the same amount of electricity that Aspen uses annually, around 25 million kilowatt hours. “Because we’re destroying methane in the process,” adds Schendler, “this is equivalent to triple offsetting our carbon footprint each year.”


report on the 2011 Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum

The following report comes from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
‘Diversity – beyond the boundaries’

An exceptional seventh annual Alpine Resorts Sustainability Forum was hosted by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) and held 9-10 May 2011 at Lake Crackenback Resortexternal link, Jindabyne NSW. This years forum theme was ‘Diversity – beyond the boundaries’.

The forum was officially opened by Bob Conroy, Executive Director Park Management Division, OEH. Mr Conroy emphasised the NSW government would not forsake environmental responsibility in the pursuit of being economically competitive. He also spoke about the challenge that the Australian alpine resort industry faces on a daily basis while managing businesses in Australia’s fragile alpine environment. Mr Conroy announced that in 2011 NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service will be publishing the inaugural annual NSW alpine resorts environmental performance report covering Kosciuszko National Park.

Three outstanding keynote speakers: Professor Mike Archer a vertebrate palaeontologist and mammalogist; Rachael Oakes-Ash, social media commentator and ski journalist; and the futurist Mark Pesce delivered thought-provoking presentations. The remainder of the program included presenters, workshop facilitators and field trips. The other presenters challenged people’s thinking when they spoke on a broad range of topics including improved initiatives in sustainable use and management of alpine resorts including better use of technology, social networking sites, sustainable tourism and marketing and environmental reporting as well as the development of improved snowmobiles.

All presentations will be available on this site from 23 May 2011.

Delegates had wonderful networking opportunities throughout the forum, particularly at the opening dinner and at one of four workshops or fieldtrips: ‘Thredbo EMS: the Challenge of the EMS in an Alpine Environment’; ‘Climbing the Social Media Ladder’; ‘Keys to Successful Rehabilitation in the Alps’; and a guided mountain bike ride On the Tourism Track in Thredbo Valley’.

Alphutte – alpine vandals

As a sub division within a snow gum woodland, developers at Dinner Plain, near Mt Hotham in the Victorian Alps, have done a good job of keeping as many mature trees as possible, whilst building houses and businesses quite densely. The ‘green’ aspect within the village is aided by the small bushland reserves that break up the housing.

Alphutte at Dinner Plain: bare earth where native veg existed. Introduced tree in background.

Guidelines require people to use indigenous species where they are putting in plants (Council guidelines say ‘only indigenous plant material can be used at Dinner Plain’), and lack of fencing has meant that small pockets of remnant understory also exist between houses. This enhances the feeling of still being in a forest.

However, Dinner Plain could be a very different place in coming years.

There is a disturbing ‘suburban creep’ that is evident, with a reasonable number of land owners now opting to destroy their remnant ground storey species and replace them with lawns.

In one obvious example of this, the people who run the Alphutte pizza restaurant recently completely removed all the remaining remnant understorey at the back of their block.

In spite of the fact that local indigenous species are meant to be planted at DP, Alphutte flout this law and have a large conifer growing as well.

While this was just a small patch of shrubs and flowers, if everyone at Dinner Plain destroyed their remnant vegetation and replaced it with lawn, and planted exotic (and potentially invasive) species on their land, the place would look profoundly different. There would also be substantial loss of biodiversity within the village itself. Dinner Plain is a small enclave of private housing within the Alpine National park, and weed invasion into the park is an obvious and, sadly, growing problem.

Often, these people retain most of the older snow gums on their properties yet don’t seem to understand (or care) that mature trees have to come from seedlings, meaning young trees must be put in to allow them to replace older trees when they do eventually die. The ‘clear the scrub and plant grass’ mentality and absence of new trees being planted will see a profoundly different village in coming years.

If poor environmental management upsets you, you may want to avoid Alphutte the next time you’re in Dinner Plain.

You might want to support Mountain Kitchen, which stocks local indigenous plant species.

Thankfully, the majority of people do seem to appreciate the remarkable landscape they are staying or living in, and do the right thing at Dinner Plain, by protecting or even replacing indigenous species.

Melbourne, 10 June, 2010.  Protect Our Winters (POW), the global environmental foundation founded in 2007 by legendary pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, is broadening their reach this winter by opening a local chapter in Australia.
Protect Our Winters (POW) is a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to reversing the global warming crisis by uniting and mobilising the global winter sports community. Jeremy has witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change on our mountains.

“POW was founded on the idea that if we harness our collective energy and put forth a focused effort, the winter sports community can have a direct influence on minimizing the damage that’s been done and ensure that winters are here for generations behind us”, said Jones.

Full report here.

new Chair of the Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council announced

Des Powell has been appointed as the new Chair of the Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Council (ARCC) in Victoria.

The Council is a statutory body established under the Victorian Alpine Resorts Management Act 1997. It reports to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and it’s key function includes planning for and facilitation of “the establishment, development, promotion, management and use of alpine resorts” in the state.  It will be very interesting to see how Des steers the ARCC in coming years.

Given this has been announced via the Australian Financial Review, I expect there will be something on the ARCC website soon.

Hotham Central, VIC

Alpine Resorts Sustainablity Forum 2010 – Friday 7 May 2010

“The Alpine Sustainability Forums are an established annual highlight of Australia’s alpine industry calendar. It is a “must attend” event for key people involved in alpine resorts across Australia. It brings together delegates from resorts across Australia to listen, workshop, and be exposed to leading edge ideas and actions”.

This year’s forum is being held at Mt Buller.

Details of the Forum, including Registration Booklet and Registration Form, are available here.

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