Seems the wheels have fallen off the 'sustainability' bus

With winter almost in view, the resorts are announcing their highlights and new activities for 2011.

In Victoria, there are the usual snow making investment announcements and continued diversification of activities. At Falls Creek, the final stage of the Slalom Plaza redevelopment has been opened. Apparently Falls also has new aerial walkways, which take pedestrians through the village via a network of elevated stairways. At Hotham, in contrast, the main new announcement is some extra investment in snow making.

Mt Buller has put another $1 million into new snow guns and the snow grooming fleet.

However, on the environment front, I doubt I have ever seen such an un-inspiring effort.

In a rather bizarre move, some reports say that Buller now has a heated walkway from the Village Square up to the Ski and Snowboard School and the Buller Kids Centre. This would be great if Buller was pitching itself as a nudist colony, but most of us wear boots in the snow, and it seems like they must have money (and carbon) to burn if they think using energy to heat an outdoor pathway is a good idea.

Hotham is pushing air travel to get to the snow. Falls and Hotham continue to push the gas guzzling obscenity that is the 6 minute heli link ride so you can ski two mountains. Great for people with no values but a healthy credit card limit. Hotham runs kids snowmobile operations.  Mention of environmental initiatives seems to have disappeared almost completely from resort promotional material in 2011 (for instance, there is a one paragraph mention of environmental practise in this years 50 page booklet from Hotham).

Meanwhile, Falls has announced that 10 ‘brand new luxury Snowmobiles’ have been added to the tours fleet, allowing guests to ride or pillion on their own snowmobile into the ‘pristine backcountry’ of Falls Creek.

Not content with imposing their operations on ‘pristine’ areas within the resort boundary with last years tours run by Steve Lee, they appear to be wanting to increase their noise and carbon footprint with these new skidoos.

On the positive side, Falls has made access to their many groomed cross country trails free. Perhaps encouraging more people to get away from the resort will balance out some of the increased carbon footprint that comes with putting a bunch of new snowmobiles into the backcountry.

Lake Mountain has substantial new building infrastructure and snow making and needs support as it recovers from the devastating fires of 2009. Baw Baw stands out amongst the Victorian resorts because it continues to focus on its ‘green’ image.

Just a few years ago, environmental initiatives were reasonably prominent in a number of the main resorts. From actively spruiking the Keep Winter Cool behaviour change program to buying green power to run some of their tows, resorts seemed serious about reducing their ecological footprint. Sadly, that all seems to have evaporated this year. Rather than acting decisively to reduce their greenhouse footprint, most have gone all out to re-badge themselves as ‘year round’ resorts. That’s where the money has gone, into mountain bike trails and many out of season festivals and events. All of that is great, and a common sense way of stretching use of existing infrastructure. But the loss of responsible activity and leadership by resort management on the environmental front is deeply disappointing.