White Slopes Go Green

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Vail Earth Tub 2-BR

Boulder, CO, Mar. 2, 2001--Ski resorts nationwide celebrated the first annual Sustainable Slopes Day on Feb. 24. The Sustainable Slopes outreach campaign sprung from the Environmental Charter adopted in June 2000 by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Participating resorts offered activities and events to promote environmental awareness and stewardship.

Wachusett Mountain, MA took their "Science on the Slopes" program to a new level for Sustainable Slopes Day: "We had six environmental interpretive kiosks located in various places around the entire mountain," said Tom Meyers, marketing director. Guests answered questions at the kiosks and submitted their answers in hopes of winning prizes.

Both Mammoth Mountain, CA and June Mountain, CA joined with Surfrider Foundation's Snowrider Project by donating one dollar for every lift ticket sold on Feb. 25 to the Snowrider Project. The Snowrider Project "increase(s) the public's understanding of the hydrological cycle and the intimate connections between snow, land, and surf."

Keystone, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Vail Mountains, CO have embraced NSAA's charter and expanded upon it by adopting the Natural Step, a set of sustainability criteria, which act as a corporate compass in designing the mountains' environmental policies. The conditions include: not extracting more from the earth than is replenishable; not depositing more materials to the earth's surface than the earth can naturally degrade; no systematic degradation of wildlife and ecosystems; and taking care of basic human needs.

Vail Resorts has taken an experimental step in maintaining this philosophy. In November, Vail purchased and installed an Earth Tub to compost post-consumer food waste in its Game Creek Lodge. The Tub has been running since Jan. 10, and all seems to be progressing smoothly. The Tub establishes a closed loop for on-mountain waste.

"We're not hauling anything off the mountain and we're saving money on fossil fuels, labor, and transportation costs for moving the waste to the Summit County (CO) landfill," said Adam Palmer, Vail's Environmental Coordinator. The compost will be used for re-vegetation and landscaping projects, with hopes of adding more Tubs to Vail, Keystone, and Breckenridge if the pilot program at Game Creek proves efficient.

Keystone Resort, CO also offered skiers and snowboarders free on-mountain eco-tours as well as snowshoe ecology tours on Feb. 24.

The NSAA's Environmental Charter asserts the ski industry's commitment to sustainability and contains a set of guiding principles by which resorts can establish sound environmental practices. More than 160 U.S. ski areas in thirty-one states and six resorts in Canada pledged to adopt and implement the charter and its core "Environmental Principles."