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Ski Resort Life

These 4 Resorts Have a New Environmental Focus: You

Ski area environmental programs can go well beyond alternative energy and LEED certification. These resorts are letting skiers become part of the solution.

Big ski resort sustainability initiatives such as Aspen Skiing Co.’s coal mine turned methane power plant are huge strides for the ski industry, but big ticket items like that are not within the grasp of many ski areas. Instead, some have rolled out smaller but still impactful ways to help green the industry, inviting skiers to have a hand in the efforts.

These four resorts offer unique programs designed to engage travelers, promote sustainability, and offset carbon footprints to keep us all skiing for winters to come.

Glass blowing from recyclables at Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah

Sundance Resort glass blowers
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Resort

The ski resort founded by actor and activist Robert Redford in 1969 has an innovative and interactive way to reuse its glass recyclables. The resort accepts wine bottles and other glass, recycles it onsite, and uses the raw materials in its glassworks studio. The studio is the winter home to artists in residence from Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara, which is known for its glass blowing tradition. During the summer, the glass blowers can craft up to 500 pieces of drinkware per day. Guests can purchase glassware at the resort’s Sundance Art Studio.

Related: How To Be a More Sustainable Skier

Birding on skis at Alta, Utah

Alta birding
Photo: Courtesy of Tracy Aviary

What does birding have to do with sustainability? Pretty much everything. Birds are biological indicators, which means that we can tell what’s going on in an ecosystem by noting how birds use the area over the years. Also, people who have a vested interest in the health of our environment are more inclined to do everything they can to improve it. That’s why naturalists with Salt Lake City’s Tracy Aviary are leading skiers around the slopes to spot the birds that call Alta’s forestland home.

Reusable water bottles at Squaw Alpine, Calif.

Squaw Alpine water bottles
Photo: Courtesy of Squaw Alpine

Not new, but incredibly impactful, Squaw Alpine rolled out its Drink Mountain Tap program a few seasons ago, making convenient reusable water bottles cheap and appealing substitutes to buying bottled water. The collapsible, lightweight water pouches are available throughout the resort, as are filling stations. The resort estimates that it’s saved roughly 420,000 water bottles from ending up in landfills.

Go Deeper: Caroline Gleich Talks Climate Change and Disappearing Glaciers

Offset your carbon footprint with carbon credits at Big Sky, Mont.

Big Sky airport
Photo: Courtesy of Bozeman Yellowstone international Airport

Earlier this season, Big Sky Resort partnered with Chicago-based company Tradewater, which sells offset credits then sees to the safe destruction of greenhouse gases and damaging refrigerants. Basically, skiers can calculate the carbon footprint of their ski trip, taking into account factors such as flights, car miles, hotel stays, and number of travelers, then Big Sky Resort lets people choose to be carbon neutral and offset 100 percent of their footprint or even go above and beyond. Tradewater makes sure the offending chemicals are disposed of in highly regulated incinerators.

“Providing skiers with an opportunity to offset their trip aligns with our sustainability goals at the resort,” said Big Sky Resort’s general manager Troy Nedved in a press release. “This is an environmental action that reaches even beyond our operations. While resort-wide carbon neutrality remains the primary goal, the offset calculator is an additional tool that allows guests to join us in our pursuit of sustainability.”