As skiers and riders, we have a privilege that very few people on earth are able to enjoy. It IS NOT by any means a right or a need. It is a want.
With many snowsports related activist groups gaining steam such as POW (Protect Our Winters), it is becoming imperative that we, as a collective industry, understand our impact on the environment. The ski industry is one that, for the most part, is filled with understanding people and businesses. A collective that is filled with passion and overall stoke for what we are fortunate enough to enjoy on a year in year out basis. Remember that word…STOKE.
- Related: Vail Resorts Releases 2018/19 EpicPromise Progress Report | Significant Progress Made Towards Sustainability Goal
The climate crisis is real, we have eleven years to do something about it before we can no longer reverse its course, per the UN. There are numerous efforts across the US to try and reduce our footprint and overall waste contributions: plastic straws, single-use plastics, etc. While this is terrific to see, skiers and riders must also understand the impact of our actions on the snow. The West has seen a reduction in total snowfall numbers by close to 50 percent since the eighties. Scary? Yes, very. As with any innovation in the ski industry, the biggest and most well-known resorts in the west usually lead the pack. No need to fret, west coast.
Taking a look at one aspect that is especially interesting in this sphere, the certification. There is now a new sustainability certification body to help assess the industry. Sustainable Tourism and Outdoors Kit for Evaluation (STOKE). The STOKE program is going about its certification in a very thorough and inclusive manner. Resorts start the program by doing a baseline evaluation that lets STOKE understand more about the scope of the operation. They create a roadmap of sorts to help the resort follow with certain steps and benchmarks to follow and hit. If a resort continues the program with consistency, they have a chance to be certified. There are many ski and surf resorts taking part in the program as of this today. While still relatively new and growing fast, it looks to be a great investment for resorts searching for a wholesome review of their practices. While the STOKE program is a new initiative that looks to be a real asset in the environmental management area, there are numerous other factors playing into the footprint and sustainability of resorts we are familiar with.
Many resorts have distinct environmental characteristics which make it difficult to compare, rather this should serve as a highlight of those doing a particularly stellar job in this facet. SnowBrains looked at some resorts who are doing a good job in this regard. Some are big-name resorts and others are small areas.
- Taos Ski Valley
- Vail Ski Resort
- Diamond Peak
- Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows
- Wolf Creek
The list should illustrate that it doesn’t matter big or small, corporation owned or family-run since day one it is possible for any type of ski resort to help with the much-needed change.
It is not a choice at this point and really should never have been–it is a necessity if we want to continue to enjoy our wonderful, deep winters.