It’s only natural for America’s ski community to embrace the environmental movement: a rise in average global temperatures could dwindle vital snowpack. Last year at least 61 ski resorts purchased wind and solar energy credits. Similarly, Jiminy Peak, in Massachusetts, became the first ski resort in the country to produce its own alternative energy, installing a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine that supplies one-third of its electricity.

Snowmass Resort
Snowmass Resort
Images ' dbox
An overview of the new Base Village in Snowmass Village, Colorado (top). The Little Nell Residences at the Base Village (above).

Eco momentum has continued to build during the 2007–2008 ski season. In November, development company Related WestPac announced phase-one completion of a new Base Village in Snowmass Village, Colorado. All 19 buildings in the $1 billion undertaking will meet LEED’s basic certification standards; two signature components, the 236-unit Viceroy Resort Residences and the 30-unit Little Nell Residences, should achieve LEED Silver certification. The project also is the largest of its kind to apply for the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program. Related WestPac president Pat Smith calls the sustainability push “an opportunity and an obligation.”

The Base Village comprises an 80-acre greenfield parcel and will ultimately include 300 condominiums, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, an aquatic center, and hospitality. Peter Dominick, FAIA, whose firm 4240 Architecture is designing for the development along with Denniston International, says “We are striving to create a sophisticated rustic aesthetic, utilizing materials and design that can withstand the intense snowfall and sunlight that are staples of the Snowmass alpine environment.”

The million-plus square feet of new construction will be distributed in a pedestrian-friendly urban plan that features low- and mid-rise gable-topped buildings. Interiors will be equally pared down but lodge-like: conceptual renderings of Little Nell, for instance, show coffered ceilings and wrought-iron chandeliers, while birch-bark partitions and candle-filled hearths highlight the Viceroy’s public spaces.

A spokesperson for Related WestPac says that designing for LEED criteria “can be a bit of a challenge, especially in a climate that has complex water laws and local sources difficulties.” To hit those targets, micro-turbines will be installed, and geothermal heating is under consideration. Construction crews already have implemented green practices, limiting their vehicles’ idling time, carpooling to the job site, undertaking soil management, and using prefabricated parts in order to minimize trucking trips. The Snowmass Village Base Village is scheduled to be entirely complete in time for the 2012–2013 ski season.

See the related article below for a look at how architects are designing lodges for disabled skiers.

NE Ski Facility Gives Lesson in Universal Design

The New England Handicapped Sports Association (NEHSA) is unusual in several respects. The 36-year-old nonprofit, which provides ski lessons at Mount Sunapee resort near its home in Newbury, New Hampshire, is the oldest organization of its kind in the eastern United States. NEHSA also is one of the only disabled ski groups that promotes members to instructor positions. But the group’s current facility is frustratingly typical: its converted modular house, at three stories tall, is largely inaccessible to disabled skiers. On a typical wintertime Saturday the 500-square-foot ground floor must accommodate as many as 150 people— “throw in a couple of a electric wheelchairs and a dog or two and it’s just cramped to the gills,” says group director, Tom Kersey. NEHSA hopes to breathe easier in its new Adaptive Sports Facility, designed by Boston’s Flansburgh Architects, set to open by the first snowfall of the 2009–2010 season.

Images courtesy Flansburgh Architects
The New England Handicapped Sports Association’s new facility, designed by Flansburgh Architects.

Flansburgh principal David Croteau, AIA, explains that finding the perfect fit began with siting the facility partway up Mount Sunapee, which allows skiers, including seated athletes using adaptive equipment, to ski directly out of the building and toward the chairlift without assistance. Responding to the site’s sloping grade, the building is arranged into two parallel bars. Ramps connect a series of mezzanines that comprise the 12,000 square feet of interior space. This interior topography also allows seated and standing disabled skiers to make eye contact easily, and maintain visual connections with staff offices. “Disabled skiers travel in large groups, and elevators are just not big enough for family members, an instructor, and equipment,” Croteau explains, “they disrupt the club experience.”

The New England Handicapped Sports Association
Images courtesy Flansburgh Architects

An isometric view of the lodge’s interior shows how each level has on-grade access to the hillside.

Although the facility will feature generous clerestory windows and a largely glazed northern elevation, its lodge aesthetic means that NEHSA participants can expect stained board-and-batten cedar cladding and standing-seam metal roofs. SIPS construction, solar domestic hot water, and other elements will qualify the building for LEED certification. But the NEHSA lodge promises to set a superlative standard for universal design.

“We knew an architect could pull out a book and find out how wide a ramp needed to be, but we wanted a building that could be considered a hardship for people without disabilities: If someone has to exert oneself to reach a shelf, it would be easier for an able-bodied person to bend down,” Kersey says. “We wanted a building that embraces people with disabilities, not just accommodate them.”