Ski Industry Unveils Environmental Charter

WASHINGTON, DC — The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) recently announced the completion of an Environmental Charter that holds participating ski areas to a sweeping set of voluntary principles for protection of the alpine areas in which they operate.

The Environmental Charter for Ski Areas formalizes the industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability. It outlines “best practices” for ski areas to adopt and implement. One-hundred-and-sixty ski areas, representing 70 percent of the country’s skier/snowboarding visits, have endorsed the Charter.

The following areas are covered:

* Planning and Design – to engage surrounding communities and interest groups in a dialogue on development plans.

* Operations – to conserve natural resources in such areas as water, energy, waste management, fish and wildlife, forest and vegetative management, wetlands and riparian areas, air quality and visual quality.

* Education and Outreach – to use the natural surroundings as a means to increase environmental awareness and enhance the relationships between resorts and other stakeholders.

“As operators of an outdoor sport whose appeal depends largely on the beauty of its environment, our members have long thought of themselves as good environmental stewards,” said Michael Berry, president of NSAA. “But this initiative marks the first time we collectively have sought out the cooperation of many groups who should be our natural allies. The result is a document that demonstrates the sincerity and commitment of this industry.”

“The ski business would be tough to take on unless you harbor a deep love of natural surroundings,” said Jerry Blann, chair of NSAA’s environmental committee and president of Jackson Hole Resort in Wyoming. He pointed out the Charter’s Preamble, which notes, “A strong environmental ethic underlies our operations, makes us stewards of the natural surroundings, and is the basis for our commitment to constant improvement in environmental conditions.”

The Charter is a result of a year-long process that involved representatives of the nation’s major environmental groups, government agencies and ski area operators who provided input. The Keystone Center, a non-profit public policy and education organization headquartered in Colorado, facilitated meetings in four regions of the country to shape the Charter.

Thirteen Partnering Organizations, entities that support the Charter and are committed to working with the industry in the future, include: the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; Conservation Law Foundation; U.S. Dept. of Energy; US Environment Protection Agency; USDA Forest Service; Leave No Trace; The Mountain Institute; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; National Park Service Concession Program; 2002 Olympics Salt Lake City Organizing Committee; Teton County, Wyoming; and Trust for Public Land.

Mark Sinclair, senior attorney and vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) said his organization is proud to endorse the Charter. “In New England, CLF has found that collaborative processes can be tremendously useful in solving ski development issues in creative ways. CLF believes that the new environmental Charter will allow ski resort owners and environmental groups to work more closely together to improve the sustainability of the ski industry.”

“We might not always agree on a course of action, but the industry believes that by continuing the dialogue we have started to develop this Charter, we will demonstrate our continuing commitment to these issues,” said Berry.

Participating ski areas will voluntarily follow the Charter’s Principles, in addition to complying with existing federal, state and local environmental laws. Ski areas that endorse the Charter will receive and display a “Sustainable Slopes” endorsement logo so the public can identify them.

SKI magazine designed and printed thousands of copies of the 23-page Environmental Charter for ski areas, which will be distributed through ski areas and posted on NSAA’s website, www.nsaa.org. NSAA will collect data from resorts on an annual basis to issue a report on the industry’s progress. Partnering organizations will provide input on the data collection.

NSAA has committed to a continued dialogue with environmental organizations to further refine the Charter over time. The National Ski Areas Association serves as the trade association for ski area owners and operators. The association began in 1962 and is located in Lakewood, Colorado.