As temperatures change and extreme weather events become more and more destructive, the ski industry stands as one of the more likely to be severely impacted by climate change. All around the world, ski seasons have become shorter, lower altitude/warmer climate resorts have struggled to open and stay open, and snowfall totals. Some ski resorts and ski areas have begun to make a push towards carbon neutrality, or even carbon-zero. According to Brittany Peterson at the Associated Press, though, several have committed to being activists themselves, refusing to sit idly while things are changing for the worst.
At Arapahoe Basin, the goal of reaching net-zero and diversion of 75% of waste by 2025 (they’re currently at 50% diversion) came alongside funding a position focused solely on reducing on-site emissions. Free electric vehicle chargers are now accessible in the parking lot, and cars with less than three people are asked to pay in order to park in the closest lot to the lifts. On the side of climate activism, Arapahoe Basin has pushed energy provider Xcel Energy to move towards renewables as fast as possible, and Sustainability Manager Mike Nathan has met with the staff of Colorado’s governor to encourage a push towards the manufacturing and use of EV heavy machinery across the state.
At Aspen Snowmass, Auden Schendler, vice-president of sustainability for the company, has pushed and lobbied to place pro-renewable individuals on the board of energy provider Holy Cross, leading the nonprofit to commit to 100% renewables by 2030 (they’re currently somewhere around 50/50). Thoughts of taxing private jets at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which make up about 80% of the flights in and out of the airport, have been halted by the FAA. Those taxes would be intended for investment in renewable energy projects, but current federal law states that airport tax revenue must be spent on-site.
Snowshoe Mountain‘s CEO Patti Duncan was encouraged both by parent company Alterra and nonprofit Protect Our Winters to write a letter to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, pointing out the benefit last summer’s climate bill would have on the state’s outdoor industry. While Manchin was initially against the bill, helping to halt the legislation to defend the state’s coal industry, he did come out in support days after Duncan sent her letter. Whether or not her letter swapped Manchin’s stance is unknown, but having the CEO of a major ski resort push for support of a bill is certainly climate activism.
I think the biggest question that comes up when big companies like ski resorts enter the sphere of political activism is: are they sincere? Companies change their logos and release statements supporting different political movements quite often, and it seems like, most of the time, they’re doing it just so people think, “oh, this company supports what I support, I’m going to buy their products!”. All of the actions mentioned above feel very sincere, in my own opinion. Adding an entire position dedicated to reducing emissions, lobbying for pro-renewable members on the board of an energy provider, and having CEOs write letters to senators definitely seems to be above and beyond. They’re putting money and reputation on the line by committing to true climate activism and I, for one, applaud them heavily.
Featured Image Credit: Snowshoe Mountain via Facebook