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North American Ski Resorts Unite Toward Major Sustainability Measures

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The Four Largest North American Ski Resort Companies Sign Transformative Climate Collaborative Charter.

In October 2019, at the Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah, four competing Ski Resort CEOs came together around a common goal of revolutionizing their industry. This transformative meeting at the Mountain Towns 2030 Conference culminated in the adoption of the Climate Collaborative Charter in June 2021. The Charter sets clear directives around reducing carbon emissions and advocating for broad sustainability measures at the 71 North American ski resorts owned by the four industry giants. Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR, and Vail Resorts, usually dueling for industry market share, found common ground in the environmental threats that endanger their industry and, ultimately, the planet.  

Photo Courtesy Benjamin Rascoe

Increasingly shorter winters and the reduced snowpack that comes with it, are direct threats to the skiing industry. “For those living in the West[ern US], the winter of 2014-15 went down as one of the worst ski seasons in memory… representing a canary in the coal mines [moment].” Some ski resorts didn’t open at all, and others suffered from subpar snow packs. 

Various climate forecasts paint a bleak picture given current greenhouse gas emissions. This unsettling reality hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the ski resort industry is responding with vigor and urgency.

The Climate Collaborative Charter establishes that the “rise in greenhouse gases… is primarily human-caused and …. the scientific evidence and first-hand observations of … weather extremes and volatility is clear and true.” The Charter is a commitment to reduce energy use and waste, advocate for public policy to shift to a renewable energy economy while striving for carbon neutrality, promote stewardship of the environment, share best practices, and support the National Ski Area Association’s Sustainable Slopes platform

Founded in 2000, the Sustainable Slopes platform — with over 200 U.S. ski area members — established sustainable practices and has provided over half a million dollars in grants to help reduce peoples’ carbon footprints and foster environmental stewardship.  Environmental stewardship means incorporating sustainability into all resort operations, educating employees and guests about sustainability, and advocating for climate protection. The Charter is an industry pledge and a broad call to action, inviting everyone to be an active participant in sustainable practices. It sends a unified message and welcomes “independent ski resort owners to join the cause.”

Not a new concept, sustainability efforts have been underway at each of the four ski resort companies for some time. Only now, they are allowing collaboration to overshadow competition when it comes to sustainability efforts, while also leveraging their collective voice. With its EpicPromise initiative, Vail Resorts announced in 2017 a goal to achieve a zero net operating footprint by 2030 at its 37 resorts, meaning zero net emissions, zero waste to landfills, and zero operational impact on habitats. “They recently achieved a 50-percent waste diversion milestone and will be 93 percent powered by renewable electricity by 2023.”  In late 2022, after Rocky Mountain Power completes their Elektron Solar Project in Utah, “Vail plans to purchase enough solar electricity to power Park City Mountain with 100% solar energy.”

Photo Courtesy Toa Heftiba

At POWDR’s 11 resorts, their Play Forever commitment focuses on energy, waste, and land sustainability efforts to enable their customers “to live a balanced life full of adventure… and believe those in the future should have the same opportunities we have today.” Boyne Resorts has adopted their ForeverProject at their ten ski sites, also with a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Already, Boyne operations will achieve 100% renewable energy for the 2020/21 winter season by purchasing renewable energy credits. They are also piloting a large-scale solar array at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan, which can later be expanded across their entire portfolio. With its 15 ski resorts, Alterra Mountain Company has its own Impact Initiative, which focuses on environmental protection, social equity, and corporate governance. At its Steamboat Resort, they are committing to eliminate single-use plastics this upcoming season. Collectively, these four companies are demonstrating solidarity, united by the Climate Collaborative Charter, to promote lasting change.

The Climate Collaborative Charter, with its unified focus on sustainability, is a bold step taken by the North American ski resort industry. The message extends beyond its industry; we can all do our part to ensure the activities we enjoy can last indefinitely.

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