Without beautiful, unspoiled mountains, the ski industry is out of business. So by protecting the environment, ski resorts can do well by doing good. To that end, the ski industry developed a national Environmental Charter last year, both to show its commitment to protecting the mountains and to provide a roadmap on how to support better environmental practices. This year, the goal is to get the word out.
"The industry is rallying around a unified message that the environment is our No. 1 asset," says Geraldine Hughes, director of public policy for the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association. For too long, skiing has been painted as the bad guy in environmental matters, she continues. "We take our charge as stewards of our natural resources very seriously."
With more than 170 ski resorts-representing about 60 percent of U.S. skier visits-endorsing the charter, a national "Sustainable Slopes" campaign will be launched on Feb. 24 to raise awareness of the environmental program. Skiers will notice the Sustainable Slopes logo on trail maps, travel brochures, resort signs and resort websites this season.
For many ski areas, the environmental practices outlined in the Sustainable Slopes initiative aren't new. In fact, many resorts have been incorporating them in their operations for years. Often the motivation is pragmatic: strong green practices improve efficiency and strengthen the bottom line. They're also a draw to skiers, who, as a group, are avid environmentalists, according to a Roper poll.
The charter also asks skiers to do their part. Suggestions include: carpooling to the slopes, reusing hotel towels and linens to help conserve water and energy, and becoming active in ski-area-based environmental and educational programs, to name a few.
The charter didn't come without controversy. When it was unveiled at the annual National Ski Areas Association meeting last spring, one angry resort operator chastised the charter's supporters for caving in to environmentalists. But industry leaders are convinced that green is the only way to go.
For more information on the Sustainable Slopes program, visit www.nsaa.org.