Over the past year, more than 30 North American ski resorts have set targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions via voluntary programs.
Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia, which is consistently rated as North America’s #1 resort has also developed some interesting sustainability measures.
As part of the resorts 50th celebrations, it commissioned an interesting project which considered the question ‘what does the future hold for us in the next 50 years?’.
They say: ‘we found that we had more questions than answers. Questions like, What if our kids stopped playing outside? Is our thirst for adventure threatening our environment?, Is the pull of the backcountry pushing our limits? and What is the future of ski resorts? ‘
This questioning has resulted in four short videos that explore these topics. The one on sustainability seems especially relevant. It outlines some of the dilemmas of striving to be ‘sustainable’ in a high consumption industry which is largely dependent on people having high consumption lifestyles. Like all resorts it relies on lots of people travelling long distances to visit, actively encourages international tourism (ie, long haul large impact flights) and features activities like heli skiing on its website.
In spite of this dilemma, it has been seeking to get its house in order in how it runs its day-to-day operations. It has done some great work at encouraging recycling and waste recovery (they’re hoping to get to 70 to 90% diversion of recyclables out of landfill) and is experimenting with using hybrid engines in it’s groomers, which are estimated to be 40% more fuel efficient.
Their other environmental initiatives, including a micro hydro renewable energy plant, are outlined here.
As always, this begs the question of where the Australian resorts are at in terms of reducing their environmental footprint. Sadly, they mostly remain pretty much absent from this space.