Making Ski Eco-friendly


Vail’s Back Bowls

A skier takes in the view at Vail’s Back Bowls



While the role of nature and ski’s appeal to outdoors enthusiasts would give it the appearance of a green vacation, some consider ski travel to be among the least eco-friendly types of trips. They cite the creation of artificial snow as a waste of water and the energy used by ski lifts to carry travelers up the mountain (but not down) as too extravagant.


That’s why companies such as Rock Resorts are implementing green initiatives at their properties. Not only will guests feel less guilty about their impact on the environment but they will be encouraged to play their part as well.


“We’ve seen a natural progression of the customer experience at our properties as more travelers are willing to help and commit to eco-friendly practices,” Paul Toner, COO of RockResorts, told Travel Agent. “The majority are leisure travelers who want to feel they can give something back, and we want to provide such opportunities to them.”

Laurence Rockefeller founded RockResorts in 1956 with the goal of providing iconic locations that are in touch with the environment. Today, in-room green guest programs aid clients in reducing carbon footprints and the Appetite for Life cuisine includes only organic and sustainable dishes. In addition, travelers relax as they learn when contributing through projects like Give and Getaway volunteer vacations to rebuild the local environment or the Ske-Cology program where a mountain ranger leads a nature tour that educates about the habitat.

The most recent of RockResorts’ eco-friendly initiatives is “Water on the Rocks,” which will save an estimated 640,000 plastic bottles (and 4,000 barrels of oil required to manufacture them) from the waste system by removing them from operations and offering pre-filled glass bottles that are refreshed as needed during housekeeping or by request. The bottles are sanitized and replaced each night with filtered water.

RockResorts’ programs are perhaps best exhibited at its Vail Resorts destinations, particularly Beaver Creek and Vail mountains. Vail was one of the first ski resorts to implement an on-mountain recycling program, and it remains the largest in the world. Solar-powered trash compactors and the installation of solar panels on the roof of mountaintop restaurant Bailey’s are conserving energy. Nearby at Keystone, an average of more than 50 tons of waste is saved every year through a composting program. At all of Vail’s resorts, employees abide by the IdleWise program—which limits the idling of company vehicles to less than five minutes.

On the horizon is One Skill Hill, which opens in Breckenridge this spring. The building has been constructed according to Green Globe’s rating system. Also in the planning stages is Ever Vail, a mixed-use neighborhood development that will use geothermal, micro-hydro turbines and other renewable energy projects. The property is one of the first to be accepted into the LEED neighborhood program, and is expected to receive Platinum status.