The Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort consists of over 3,200 hectares of snow-covered slopes and hosted several events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Millions visit the iconic mountains each year, however, few know of the iconic role that Whistler has played in ski resort sustainability.
In the 1990s the team at Whistler Blackcomb decided to become sustainability leaders after the mountain manager at the time, Arthur DeJong, encountered a fuel spill on one of the mountains and realized the need to protect the natural environment.
"We wanted to go far beyond compliance," explains Allana Williams, the Regional Sustainability Manager for Whistler Blackcomb. "We've been working in partnership with BC Hydro since 2005 on changing out lightbulbs, doing retrofits, and then optimizing our buildings."
Their efforts have received national recognition and Whistler Blackcomb was named one of Canada's greenest employers for 11 consecutive years. The ski resort has continued to focus on reducing its global footprint and their recent achievement has brought them to the global stage.
When the B.C. resort was acquired by Vail Resorts, Inc., their new parent company decided to follow the Whistler Blackcomb model and committed to a zero net operating footprint across all of their 37 resorts by 2030.
Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Their ambitious commitment focuses on three main areas: zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact to forest and wildlife habitat.
Vail released a progress report on their sustainability commitments this past October and state that they have invested $2.4 million into energy efficiency capital and are upgrading snow-making machines, which will help the company reach 25 per cent of its emission goal. They have also diverted over 11 million pounds of waste from landfills through recycling and composting, which helped them reach 44 per cent of their waste diversion goal.
The company has purchased 17 new resorts this year and while they are still on the road to net zero, Williams says that they are not slowing down when it comes to reducing energy and they believe that they can reach their goal.
Williams says that if a ski resort in B.C., Canada can inspire the biggest mountain resort operator in the world, they can inspire others to take steps towards a smaller carbon footprint and protect the environment that they get to live, work, and play in each day.
With files from Mia Gordon.