Posted by Trevor Smith on January 13th, 2011
[from guest student blogger* Adam Grzegorczyk]
The ski season in Canada is in full swing, boosted by some good snowfall in many places since the New Year. Skiing and snowboarding is such a breathtaking outdoor sport that it seems wrong not to be green when you hit the slopes. After all, if you are taking advantage of that great part of nature that includes snowy mountainous inclines in its design, why not lessen your impact while there? So what’s the best way of going green when on the slopes? Well it is probably something you consider anyway: where to go?
Ski resorts are caught in a classic catch-22, they generate huge amounts of emissions through snowmaking, grooming, moving people, and even getting to the resort itself, that they can often be the largest non-point source polluter in any given area. Yet it is those very emissions that may very well lead them to having no snow at all in a few decades (or years depending on who you want to listen to). You do still need snow to ski, right? So you can imagine that ski resorts have a natural incentive to go green. Not all resorts are viewing this in the same manner however.
The choice you must therefore make is to choose a resort that is proactive in its environmentally sustainable principles. Resorts all over North America and the world are choosing to use different initiatives to make their resorts more sustainable, while some resorts still chose to keep their heads in the snow. Those who decide to do something are initiating projects such as the building of wind turbines for power, the purchasing of carbon offsets, or the promotion of car-pooling initiatives all to lessen their impacts on climate change. Making a conscious choice to support resorts that practise these principles is a great first step in making sure that when you hit the slopes you do so in a responsible and educated manner.
Whistler, British Columbia for example has made commitments to conservation efforts that have cut electrical consumption by 18% in the last two years. The resort has also dedicated $320,000 to conservation initiatives this season alone and has cut more the 540 tonnes of waste produced this year. For examples south of the border one has to look no further than Aspen, Colorado. Aspen has been an industry leader in sustainability for years. Some of its most significant environmental initiatives include using biodiesel fuel in all of its snow grooming machines, and making snow with specks of dust to lessen the energy and water needed for production. They were also the first in the U.S. ski industry to offset 100 percent of its electrical use with renewable energies. These pioneering principles have led to over 45 other U.S. based resorts to follow Aspen’s lead.
The choice you are making is a choice you will have to make anyway. So why not choose a resort that practises sustainability principles and makes commitments to reducing its impact on the environment. Ask questions and do some research. Not only will you be able to cruise down those slopes with a lighter conscience, you’ll be doing all the other resorts who don’t a favour, because unless they want to get inline they won’t be around much longer.
A great site that recommends and highlights sustainable ski resorts can be found at www.OnTheSnow.com: Green Guide.
* We would like to welcome the Niagara College Bloggers! These students are in the second term of a 1 year post-graduate program in Environmental Management and Assessment at Niagara College. The students have diverse backgrounds and will be sharing their expertise in all things green.
[Student Profile: Adam Grzegorczyk is from Oakville, ON who has been snowboarding for the past 15 years. He has been lucky enough to be able to travel around the world snowboarding and been involved in multiple sustainability initiatives during his young environmental career]