Greening Our White Slopes: Canada’s Sustainable Ski Resorts
It’s hard to capture the experience of skiing down a Champagne-snow-covered slope into words, but if we had to choose a few, we’d say: exhilarating, liberating, meditative, I-am-alive-in-this-moment.
Canadian ski resorts live in some of our most beautiful, awe-inspiring, life-giving places – those same places that define us as the winter warrior Canadians we are. And thanks to the environmental efforts of many of our country’s best ski resorts, we’ll be able to continue experiencing these places for a long, long time to come.
AHAALiving.com has rounded up our top picks for sustainable ski resorts across Canada:
MTV’s unfortunate reality show Peak Season failed to mention that Whistler is a repeat winner on Canada’s Greenest Employers list. The green initiatives in place here are as staggering as their slopes – including a 60% reduction in overall waste since the year 2000, and their on-site micro-hyrdo-electric plant, which produces enough green energy for the resort’s entire operations.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (Golden)
Located in the Rocky Mountain Trench, Kicking Horse holds the fourth highest vertical drop in North America. Alongside efforts currently in place to off-set environmental damage, like erosion control, energy conservation, and minimal site disturbance, Kicking Horse is in the process of researching alternative energy supplies and water conservation methods. Keep it up, Kicking Horse!
Sun Peaks Resort (Vernon)
Sun Peaks features 15 km2 of skiable terrain, including 122 runs, 12 gladed areas, and 40 km of cross country trails. They also hold that environmental sustainability is everyone’s responsibility, and have appropriately divided their eco-efforts according to the four elements:
- Water (e.g., ultra low flush toilets)
- Earth (e.g., bioengineering methods for erosion control)
- Air (e.g., fuel-efficient Piston Bully Snow Cats)
- Fire (e.g., establishment of the Sun Peaks volunteer fire department)
Marmot Basin (Jasper)
Located in Jasper National Park, Marmot is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks – an area designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This resort is excellent if you’d prefer a less crowded experience than Alberta’s other, busier ski resorts; or if you’re travelling with a group who have varying skill levels, given the broad mix of runs. Among their system of climate change combatants, Marmot uses solar and wind power to fuel their wireless internet, web cams, and certain outdoor lights.
Blue Mountain Resort (Collingwood)
When we think of skiing, we tend to think of the Rocky Mountains, but in fact Blue Mountain Resort is the third busiest ski resort in Canada. Blue Mountain – which is not actually on a mountain, but rather an escarpment – remains the only Ontario ski resort that endorses Sustainable Slopes, an initiative designed to provide the ski industry with an overarching framework on sustainability.
Recognized as the number one ski resort in Eastern N.A. 14 years in a row by Ski Canada, Mont-Tremblant takes great care to preserve and respect it’s biggest asset: the stunningly beautiful environment surrounding the resort. Their extensive protection plan leaves no stone “turned over” – even deer corridors are mapped in order to ensure infrastructure doesn’t throw Bambi off-track.
Mont Sutton (Sutton)
Mont Sutton is ideal for a quieter Quebec skiing experience than Mont-Tremblant. This family-owned ski resort is well-known among skiers for its close-to-nature glade skiing. Among their many sustainable initiatives, Mont-Sutton regularly plants trees on slopes and along ski trails to enrich the environment and ski experience in one fell swoop.
Around the world, ski resorts continue to develop inventive methods for keeping their slopes green:
- Greener energy practices like geothermal (Squaw Valley, California); wind and solar (Aspen Skiing Company, Colorado; Aravis Lodge, France);
- Transit systems, like Park City’s (Utah) free public transit, and Méribel’s (France) 25 km walking path for travelling between peaks;
- Making resorts car-free zones, like Saas-Fee (Switzerland);
- Better building design, like Whitepod’s (Switzerland) cosy, low-impact guest pods;
- More efficient water use systems, like Killington’s (Vermont) use of the Woodward Reservoir (they pump water from the deepest parts – so it’s already cold).
While green initiatives are well underway in Canadian ski resorts, in many ways the green ski business is still in its infancy, and not all resorts have embraced climate change efforts. But the future is looking sunny, snowy, and bright, thanks to the efforts of many Canadian ski resorts.
Keep up the good work, and let’s hit the slopes!