Resorts report favorably on implementing environmental programs during 2002/03 season

LAKEWOOD, Colo.-The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) today released its third “Sustainable Slopes Annual Report” detailing the ski industry’s progress in implementing its Environmental Charter for Ski Areas over the past season. The Environmental Charter, commonly referred to as “Sustainable Slopes” is a collection of environmental best practices for resorts in 21 areas including water conservation, fish and wildlife habitat protection, energy conservation, waste reduction and air quality. One hundred and seventy-three (173) resorts have endorsed the Environmental Charter to date, representing more than 72 percent of the U.S. ski industry by skier/snowboarder visits.

Resorts used an “assessment tool” to measure their progress in implementing environmental best practices for purposes of the Annual Report. Seventy-nine (79) resorts from 25 states completed the assessment this spring, which required resorts to answer more than 200 questions and submit quantitative environmental data. The Brendle Group, an environmental consulting firm in Fort Collins, Colo., spearheaded the data collection and analysis efforts. The assessment results were then used to identify resorts’ strengths, weaknesses, and to help set goals for the future.

New this year, the assessment tool helped resorts quantify climate change impacts in terms of reductions in CO2, a principal greenhouse gas associated with global warming. The Annual Report shows that collectively, resorts helped eliminate the emission of 222,608,369 pounds of CO2 through energy conservation, waste reduction/recycling and transportation related projects. Measurement of climate impacts was included in this year’s Annual Report in keeping with the ski industry’s new policy on climate change and related “Keep Winter Cool” campaign on global warming solutions (click link for details).

According to NSAA Director of Public Policy Geraldine Link, “based on three years worth of data, the Sustainable Slopes program clearly is making an impact. Resorts have accepted the challenge of finding solutions to global warming and remain committed to sound environmental stewardship.” NSAA President Michael Berry agrees, “Resorts across the country continue to operate in a sustainable manner and raise the bar each season by improving environmental performance.”

The four areas that resorts scored the highest include: protecting wetlands and riparian areas; protecting scenic values or “visual quality”; planning designing and constructing facilities in an environmentally sensitive manner; and properly handling potentially hazardous waste. The four areas that resorts need to improve on in the future include: energy use for lifts; reusing products to reduce waste; energy use for vehicle fleets; and energy use for snowmaking. In addition to these findings, the Report indicates that among reporting resorts:

*Eighty-nine percent (89%) are engaging stakeholders collaboratively on siting improvements, such as new facilities or lifts.

*Ninety percent (90%) are minimizing tree removal by carefully siting and designing ski trails.

*Ninety-eight percent (98%) are applying sound on-mountain construction practices, such as over-snow transport techniques, stormwater control, or phasing of activities to minimize disturbances to natural habitats.

*Eighty-nine percent (89%) are using high-efficiency snow guns and air compressors for snowmaking operations.

*Eighty-seven percent (87%) are planting trees or other vegetation to improve visual quality.

*Ninety percent (90%) are providing shuttles or transportation for guests and employees.

*Ninety-one percent (91%) are recycling office paper, cardboard, newspaper, aluminum, glass, plastic, and food service waste.

The Annual Report also highlights the contributions of the ski industry’s partners in the Charter over the past year, including: the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; Conservation Law Foundation; U.S. Dept. of Energy; U.S. Environment Protection Agency; USDA Forest Service; Leave No Trace; The Mountain Institute; National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; National Park Service Concession Program; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Teton County, Wyoming; and the Trust for Public Land.

A copy of the 89-page Sustainable Slopes Annual Report is available by clicking here. Also located on the website is NSAA’s on-line environmental database, the “Green Room,” and information on the “Keep Winter Cool” campaign.

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.