I had been looking forward to a family ski trip over this past New Year’s for quite a while. I was ready to hit the slopes again. The last time I had skied was several years back when I made a frantic descendance down the mountain with tears streaming down, and freezing on my face. I thought I had frostbite on my hands and feet.
As it turned out, I did not have frostbite and I hadn’t gone insane. I learned I had developed a pesky condition called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon” which can make the cold very painful. For years, I’d get attacks of Raynaud’s where my fingers and toes turned white and went numb. It’s really not very attractive or comfortable, at all.
I limited my exposure to the cold during the winter, or as best as I could living in New York. Walking down the refrigerated isles in supermarkets was miserable, and skiing was most certainly off the table which really bummed me out. I grew up skiing, and with every winter that passed, I missed the thrill and the serenity of the sport more and more.
More recently my sensitivity to the cold hadn’t been bothering me as much and my Raynaud’s attacks were less frequent. So I figured ‘what the heck,’ why not give skiing one last shot.
My first day of skiing in years was this past New Year’s Eve at Killington Resort. Fittingly, I rode a gondola powered by cow manure up the mountain for my first run.
Killington partnered with Green Mountain Power to cleverly use uses cow manure — a byproduct of dairy farming that already exists in abundance throughout the state — as an energy source.
Under GMP’s Cow Power program, manure is collected from Vermont’s dairy farms: 10,000 cows from 13 farms across the state produce roughly 300,000 gallons of manure per day. That is a lot of manure.
Under the process, farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.