ASHLAND, OR – Nonprofit community ski area, Mt. Ashland, is the world's first ski area to be certified for sustainability management practices.
In March 2017, at the end of their best winter on record, Mt. Ashland was evaluated against the STOKE Snow standard of 153 criteria by an independent evaluator, Pete Blanchard. The ski area achieved an overall compliance score of 77% across all four categories of sustainability performance, which is above the minimum threshold of 70% for STOKE certification.
Hiram Towle, General Manager of Mt. Ashland, stated "We were thrilled to be the first to join the program and we're honored to be the first to earn certification! STOKE's initial visit was during one of our lowest snow years on record, but their optimism, tools and templates, and unique perspective on sustainable ski area management empowered our team to embrace sustainability and create a plan for the future—we haven’t looked back since. As a community-driven ski area committed to providing unforgettable alpine experiences for generations to come, I am immensely proud of my team and we are eager to improve from here."
Mt. Ashland was the first Early Adopter of the STOKE Snow program when they were benchmarked by STOKE and provided with a Roadmap to Sustainability Report in March 2015. One of the major outcomes of their Roadmap Report was a $65,552 grant and nearly $27,000 in incentives for an 85-panel rooftop solar system that was installed in July 2016. The solar PV system produced 15,356 kWh for energy used on site and 10,514 kWh that was exported back to the grid for a total CO2 emissions savings of 18.2 tons for the 2016/17 winter season.
Development Director, Michael Stringer, describes how the timing could not have been better following their 50th year anniversary in 2014, "The STOKE certification is much more than an exercise of checking boxes. It's born from a passion to provide skiing to our local community for another 50 years and beyond. Three years ago, Mt. Ashland was in need of change and thanks to Hiram's new leadership and STOKE's guidance, we reconnected with our community and established a plan for long-term sustainability even through the drought years. We are now an industry leader in many regards and people come up to me and my coworkers all the time and tell us about the tremendous difference this is making. In fact, we've just wrapped up our most successful spring season pass sale in a long time!"
Local communities in the Rogue Valley benefit from several programs Mt. Ashland runs each season including an affordable learn to ski program called My Turn where graduates earn free season passes or several lift vouchers depending on age, as well as the longstanding After School Youth Program that has taught 30,000 local elementary and middle school students how to ski and snowboard since the program began 20 years ago. With the support of 578 donors who received free lift tickets in exchange for at least five canned goods, Mt. Ashland collected 3,206 pounds of food for their annual Ski Against Hunger Food Drive in collaboration with ACCESS food bank. Mt. Ashland also facilitates the Women of Winter program in partnership with SheJumps, along with the Winter Wellness Day which taught 120 local underprivileged youth how to ski.
Mt. Ashland also increased participation in their two alternative transportation initiatives this season. The Ski Hopper shuttle bus was offered free of charge for the 2016/17 winter which increased ridership from 250 to 1560 passengers and resulted in a net reduction of 21.4 tons of CO2 emissions compared to 1.7 tons of emissions reductions the previous year. Carload Mondays, the ski area's other carpool incentive that allows up to eight passengers to split the cost of a lift ticket, had 58 cars with a total of 272 participants which saved 6.65 tons of CO2 emissions over the winter.
STOKE Certified's Co-Founder, Carl Kish, expressed that "Mt. Ashland's team was dedicated to the program from day one and we're blown away at how much they have achieved in two years—especially from their Environmental Committee. They are the poster child for the STOKE Snow program and we look forward to scaling it up towards larger ski resorts in the coming years in hopes of having a greater impact on the ski industry."
Built in 1964, Mt. Ashland has embraced its heritage and local culture since day one. To honor the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland, the ski area named every trail after Shakespearean characters while the Tudor-style architecture of the lodge represents the era of the famous playwright as well. Skiers can enjoy a night of theater after a day up on the hill with Mt. Ashland and OSF's Snow and a Show promotion to offer discounted tickets to their world class plays. Local indigenous cultures are also represented on the mountain with their biannual Snow Blessing Ceremonies, which hosts various Native American and religious groups to pray at the top of the ski area each fall and spring.
For a detailed list of their best practices with photographs, visit their STOKE Certified profile at http://www.stokecertified.com/