Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue.
Often we put life in autopilot and go, go, go through every season. We don’t realize we’re shunning carpooling, trashing tons of drive-thru coffee cups, impacting wildlife in protected areas, using toxic wax on our gear or supporting companies with careless sustainability practices.
Colorado’s winter trails, roadways and resorts are taking a beating. If we each make a small effort, our mountains will reap huge rewards and serve us in purer, more sustainable ways. Here’s how to step back, make your sport mindful, minimize your impact and maybe even give back a little this ski season.
RETHINK YOUR GEAR
Reuse and reduce by purchasing ski pants, jackets, gloves and equipment from consignment shops such as Ridden in Breckenridge, Replay Sports in Aspen and Boomerang Sports Exchange in Steamboat Springs.
When it’s time to trade up, take your gear to these shops and make a little cash. Or upcycle skis, boards and bindings into funky furniture. With minimal woodworking skills, you can create some incredible wine racks, book shelves, garden planters or porch chairs and benches. An old pair of ski boots becomes flower planters. Painted and chopped ski poles become wind chimes. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
Better yet, donate gently used gear to adaptive and youth ski programs or through The North Face’s Clothes the Loop program in which donations are sent to their nonprofit partner Soles4Souls.
Make sure you’re riding and wearing gear that’s crafted with Mother Nature in mind. Hardworking, earth-conscious brands are on the rise and not hard to find these days. Colorado-made Purl ski and snowboard wax skips the toxic chemicals that can end up in water streams, while mountainFLOW in Carbondale created a new line of eco-friendly plant-based ski waxes designed to thrive in all snow conditions. Denver’s Phunkshun Wear windproof winter face masks are made from upcycled plastic bottles, Grass Sticks in Steamboat calls on eco-friendly bamboo and Pagosa Springs-based Voormi nixes synthetics for natural fibers.
TAKE A TOUR
Break from hot laps down your favorite runs to learn a little about the ground beneath you. Copper Mountain’s free Ski with a Ranger program is run by Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and delivers a healthy dose of environmental wealth. Ski with a naturalist from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies at Snowmass, join a free guided interpretative tour highlighting Breckenridge’s sustainability commitments or book a backcountry tour with Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides for an off-piste experience with an environmental edge. Inquire with individual ski resorts about green on-mountain volunteer opportunities.
USE RIDESHARE APPS
For skiers and boarders along Colorado’s Front Range, getting to the mountains to shred can be a bumper-to-bumper, gas-guzzling, idling nightmare. Recent years have unveiled a slew of clever ways to cut the hassle and, most importantly, the pollution. Ride the Winter Park Express ski train, take the Bustang to Frisco or Vail, call on the Front Range Ski Bus to Loveland or Copper Mountain and jump on the rideshare bandwagon with SkiCarpool or Carpool World. The best part? Resorts like Arapahoe Basin offer priority lift-side parking and discounted tickets to skiers with more than four in the car.
SHOP, EAT, THINK LOCAL
This one is easy. Sip your coffee from a reusable cup, pack a metal reusable straw, buy made-in-Colorado goods and seek out regionally sourced sustainable menus when you eat out. Support the moms and pops who are roasting their own beans and growing their own tomatoes versus big brand drive-thrus that may be hauling in products from far away, leaving long, dirty carbon trails in their wake.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT YOUR RESORT
HERE’S A QUICK LIST ON WHO’S DOING WHAT IN COLORADO:
VAIL MOUNTAIN increased composting from two tons to 150 tons from FY 2018 to FY 2019. The operations and food and beverage teams at the resort came up with a collaborative solution to hauling compost. Sending compost down the gondola, rather than over the snow, addressed logistical transportation challenges created by the weight of the compost.
ASPEN SNOWMASS captures waste methane from a local coal mine to generate carbon-negative electricity. They’ve also built industry-leading solar arrays and LEED-certified mountaintop restaurants. The resort’s Give a Flake campaign partners with Protect Our Winters encouraging guests to reach out to elected officials to fight for stable climate and snowy winters.
ARAPAHOE BASIN is working toward a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025 with a seven-piece plan including 100 percent renewable energy and 75 percent waste diversion. The ski area engages guests in sustainability by incentivizing carpooling, public transportation and waste reduction. The A-Basin Snow Huggers Club is a way for skiers and snowboarders to offset their fuel emissions traveling to and from the ski area.
Through Xcel Energy’s Renewable Connect Program, COPPER MOUNTAIN is now 12 percent powered by solar. The mountain also actively supports the biodiversity of its eco-system through advanced practices such as native seed collecting.
BRECKENRIDGE made innovative improvements to its waste diversion system by piloting a food scrap program, which will be expanded across the resort this season — with the goal of diverting at least 40 tons of organic material. All waste material collected will be used locally to create high-grade compost for use around Summit County, including revegetation projects with the White River National Forest..
Vail Resorts invested $2.4 million in energy-efficiency capital to upgrade its snowmaking operations–and switch to LED lighting –across several of its resorts, including Keystone. The new low-energy, high-efficiency automated snow guns at KEYSTONE create more snow with less energy.