From running lifts to making hot chocolate, energy is a vital resource for Big Sky Resort. We're pushing to be more efficient in our energy usage from the smallest to largest implementations
Clean Energy Chairlift Operations
In Winter 2020, Big Sky Resort began operating all its chairlifts with electricity generated from renewable sources through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits. REC purchases create demand for renewable electricity to be added to our power grid, even if there is no direct connection from a renewable power source to where the power is being utilized.
As of January 2021, all of the Boyne Resorts offset chairlift electricity usage with the purchase of RECs.
Big Sky also continues to invest in improving our lift infrastructure, with new, higher-efficiency lifts, as well as ongoing maintenance to reduce our electricity usage.
Building Heating & Cooling
The temperature control of our lodges is a significant contributor to our energy consumption. By eliminating unnecessary heating and cooling and improving our heating systems, we are able to reduce electricity and propane demands and diminish greenhouse gas emissions from our hotels.
In the summer of 2014, the Summit Hotel and Shoshone Condominium Hotel were equipped with a key card system in each room to optimize thermostat activity. These efficiency thermostats allow guests to set temperature settings when they are in the room by inserting their key card into a wall compartment. When the key card is removed, the room recognizes that it is unoccupied and the heating and cooling returns to its default settings.
In 2016 and 2017, the Village Center and Huntley Lodge systems were upgraded to use infrared occupancy sensors to determine whether a room is occupied, and will regulate the temperature settings accordingly.
In 2019, the Summit Hotel was upgraded to a state-of-the-art web-based control system. In addition to infrared occupancy sensors on thermostats and economy settings, lodging staff can monitor and control thermostats from a central computerized system, and manage alerts for rooms that are too hot or cold. This new system is anticipated to reduce energy usage by around 15%.
Beyond thermostat regulation systems, Big Sky adjusts all thermostats in the off-season to ensure energy usage for heating and cooling is minimized.
Changing incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs to LEDs has resulted in significant energy savings for the resort. As buildings have undergone remodels and lights go out, old incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs have been phased out in favor of LED lightbulbs, which use significantly less energy and are more durable.
In 2011, the Summit Hotel's parking garage was retrofitted with LED bulbs and motion sensor lighting control. In only 10 months, the project had paid for itself, with the energy savings making up for the cost of the retrofit and sensors.
In 2019, all the interior and exterior bulbs in the Exchange (previously the Mountain Mall) were replaced. The Huntley Lodge and Summit Hotel followed during their remodels in 2021. In the hotel rooms, the retrofit is expected to reduce power requirements by 50 -80%, depending on the room type.
Despite generally being the most durable kind of bulb, LEDs used outdoors need to be replaced in the winter months more frequently than they should. As the transition to LEDs continues throughout our buildings, there has been a challenge with finding the right LEDs for outdoor use.
Fall and spring in Big Sky are times of both calm and activity, as our teams prepare for the upcoming seasons. To reduce energy consumption during the off-seasons, electrical breaker panels are marked for team members to shut down all unnecessary power. As well, we can take advantage of connected HVAC systems in our lodges to standardize efficient temperatures in empty guest rooms.
Variable Frequency Drives
Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) optimize motors that operate a variety of maintenance equipment. Over the years, we have installed 16 VFDs to control the ramp-up and ramp-down of boilers, chillers, and kitchen hood motors during start and stop to decrease energy usage.
Snow Melting on Walkways
While walking on snow is a part of living in the mountains, it is important that certain walkways stay dry for accessibility and the safety of our guests. In 2021, we added Tekmar snowmelt sensors that automate when heated snowmelt areas are turned on. Moisture and ice detectors control when the system is active. In 2022, we will be connecting the system to web-based controls, allowing us to more accurately control the system over the entire Village area.
Solar-Powered Beacon Checkers in the High Alpine
Our beacon checkers, used for guests to check their safety equipment before skiing high-consequence terrain off of Lone Peak, are powered by localized solar arrays. This not only allows our beacon checkers to run sustainably but also prevents us from having to track wires out to their locations from centralized power sources. Our solar-powered beacons are a great example of how ski areas face unique challenges in practicing sustainable operations, but with that comes opportunities for innovative solutions.
Big Sky Resort's mountain operation teams utilize advanced GPS systems to optimize grooming routes, limit idle times, and make the most effective use of fuel possible. These systems help operators follow the most ideal slope path for the trails they are on and prevent grooming areas that have already been covered. Further, the Snow How system provides assistance to maximize the efficacy of tilling the snow and deliver the cleanest tracks in the most efficient way.
- Big Sky Resort has installed vestibule entries on all major entrance/exit points in the Exchange and Summit Hotel.
- All old Shoshone Hotel deck windows have been replaced with new, energy-efficient models.
- Big Sky regularly audits and adjusts the snowmaking system in order to make it run at optimal efficiency.
- The Village Center and Summit Hotel use free cooling to chill water, which uses a large fan and water evaporation rather than electricity.