The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, a non-industry, independent mechanism that gives skiers and boarders a way to assess the environmental performance of their favorite Western resorts, has come out with its latest national findings.

Two California resorts - Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows - are high up in the rankings.

Using such criteria as maintaining terrain within existing footprint, preserving undisturbed lands from redevelopment, protecting threatened or endangered species and their habitat, preserving/protecting environmentally sensitive areas, protecting water quality and the resorts' water and energy efficiency, the Scorecard grades resorts from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

Squaw Valley came in with an admirable score of 78.3, the highest among the 19 California resorts graded and No. 5 overall behind Aspen (85.7) and Buttermilk (85.2) in Colorado and Sundance (82.2) and Park City (79.1) in Utah.

Alpine Meadows was right behind in sixth place with a grade of 77.4.

Overall, California resorts graded fairly well on the Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, with an even dozen improving their scores from the previous year. The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition, which is based in Durango, Colo., and conducts the annual survey, attributed the improved scores to expanded efforts to reduce energy consumption and to install green energy technology.