Ski industry leaders come together to combat climate change |

Ski industry leaders come together to combat climate change

Skiers and snowboarders ride under the American Eagle lift at Copper Mountain Resort on March 29, 2021. Copper Mountain’s parent company, POWDR, is one of four ski companies to sign the Climate Collaborative Initiative.
Ashley Low

Ski industry giants have set their sights on the future of sustainability.

Last month, Alterra Mountain Co., Boyne Resorts, POWDR and Vail Resorts announced the Climate Collaborative Charter, a promise to do everything in their power to leave a positive impact for future generations by combating climate change.

The charter characterizes climate change as “the most critical issue” facing the industry and the world, and it commits the companies to reducing their energy use and waste production, advocating for effective public policy and to being responsible stewards of the environment. The companies also pledged to incorporate sustainability into all aspects of their businesses and to place collaboration over competition when it comes to solving the problem.

Kate Wilson, senior director of sustainability at Vail Resorts, which owns Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort, said the companies coming together will only accelerate progress made against climate change.

“One company alone can’t solve the climate crisis,” Wilson said in an email. “This charter signifies the start of our collaborative partnership to collectively drive climate change mitigation.”

Laura Schaffer, director of corporate responsibility at POWDR, which owns Copper Mountain Resort, agreed with Wilson. She said the charter is an opportunity for the ski companies to learn from one another and open lines of communication.

“It’s momentous for the ski industry as a whole and for these four resort companies to be collaborating in this way in the sense that the charter really formalizes our willingness to share best practices to motivate each other, to educate each other, to learn from each other,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer said Copper has fully embraced POWDR’s corporate responsibility commitment, Play Forever, which focuses on three priorities: energy, waste and land. The resort has already worked with community partners to implement composting and recycling solutions and increase renewable energy with solar arrays on site. The resort also has a land initiative where employees and volunteers collect seeds native to the area, which will then be used to restore other areas.

Sarah Jones, director of sustainability and community engagement at Alterra-owned Steamboat Ski Resort, said since ski areas rely on snow and other natural resources to exist, climate action is critical to their business model. She said the charter would also show resort guests that they should be engaged in the climate action process and assure resort communities that the companies are dedicated to supporting them in the long run.

“We are an economic driver in our communities,” Jones said. “Because we are so interrelated, our communities and the resorts, they understand how critical it is to take these climate actions.”

This upcoming season, Steamboat Resort is moving away from single-use plastics and working with its utility company to increase its renewable energy portfolio. Jones said they are also in the process of developing a long-term sustainability plan looking at forest health, conservation education, water use and transportation.

The charter came to fruition following a Mountain Towns 2030 conference two years ago, when leaders from all four of the ski companies came together to recognize that working together would only accelerate any progress.

“The industry as a whole recognizes what a challenge we have in front of us with climate change, and we have such an incredible opportunity to make change within ourselves and inspire it within others,” Schaffer said.

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