Ask Eartha: How ski areas cut down their carbon footprint
I love skiing, but I also understand the environmental impacts (energy, transportation, waste, etc.). Are the local resorts doing anything to decrease their footprints?
— Jack, Keystone
Jack, thank you for the great question. Many of us live in the mountains because we like to recreate outside. In the winter you’ll find locals — skis or snowboards in hand — heading to the various ski areas around Summit County.
But, downhill skiing and snowboarding are very resource- and energy-intensive sports. So how can we enjoy the sports we love so dearly while helping reduce our overall impact on the environment? The good news is that all of our Summit County ski areas are working to decrease their footprints. Here are a few examples.
Big goals, big savings
Let’s start with Vail Resorts. Their Commitment to Zero pledges zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill and zero net operating impact on forests, all by 2030. They’re monitoring the journey through a progress report that details big projects and other movements toward the goals.
Companywide, Vail Resorts invested $2.4 million in energy efficiency projects in 2018, including energy-efficient snow guns and building upgrades. Keystone composted 103 tons of food waste from March 2017 to February 2018, 26.5 tons of which came from on-mountain dining.
At Copper, lighting and refrigeration efficiency projects were just the start. In 2018, Copper installed electric vehicle charging stations and solar thermal heating at Solitude Station. Combined with all other 2018 energy efficiency projects, this resulted in savings equivalent to taking 106 cars off of the road for a year.
Another ski area with aggressive goals, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, committed to being carbon neutral — powered by 100 percent renewable electricity — and recycling or composting 75 percent of its waste by 2025. The Basin publishes an annual sustainability report that tracks their emissions and waste, and highlights the projects they’ve undertaken to minimize their environmental impact.
On the ground, they’re using energy-efficient snow guns, investing in energy efficiency, offering carpool incentives, recycling and composting food waste. They even have two solar systems powering the Kids Center and Patrol HQ.
Advocacy with a heavy dose of F-U-N
Beyond the day-to-day operations and big-picture goals, all three engage in environmental advocacy. This ranges from volunteerism to grant programs funding a variety of environmental initiatives and organizations, as well as community activities and events.
One such event is A-Basin’s Save Our Snow and Demo Day on Saturday, March 30. This event brings together local companies that all have strong sustainability initiatives as part of their company culture. A-Basin sets up a Green Village at the base of the mountain where you and I can learn more about these companies and their products.
Colorado ski and snowboard brands will have their skis and boards available all day at the Demo Village. A minimum $10 donation allows you to ride the newest equipment, and all proceeds support the High Country Conservation Center.
While at the event, you can also mingle with other members of the community while enjoying some live music. Check out HighCountryConservation.org for details.
Mind the gear
It is important to recognize that as the ski and snowboard industry grows, so does the environmental impact of recreating. Many snowsports products are made from materials that are sourced from fossil fuels. This creates a problem when it comes time to buy new skis, snowboards and outerwear because the more we buy, the more resources we indirectly consume.
Using your dollar to support brands that align with your values can have a huge impact on the direction that the industry takes. In fact, many well-known brands have started making products containing recycled or renewable resources, like plant-based plastics for goggle frames.
Another way to address your personal impact is by reducing the amount of gear you buy every season, purchasing used products and trying your best to recycle your gear when it is at the end of its life cycle. By taking public transportation to the ski areas you can further reduce your carbon footprint and meet more of your neighbors.
As a community member, your voice matters, so speak with your local ski area about adopting more sustainable practices. After all, we are all stakeholders in making sure that our community enjoys winter seasons with plenty of great snow for generations to come.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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