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Brave Ski Mom - How to get your Kids into Snowsports Sustainability Efforts

Nevada’s Diamond Peak Ski Resort has a fortunate location. Located above Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, the snowy resort slopes seemingly flow to the lake’s edge, a beautiful intermeshing of bright white snow with blue alpine waters. But with this glorious location comes a sense of environmental responsibility.

The Lake Tahoe area is popular not just in winter, but year round. And, like most of the planet, Lake Tahoe faces pressures from overuse, pollution, and climate change. In 2015, Diamond Peak became the second resort in the U.S. to receive the Sustainable Tourism Operator’s Kit for Evaluation (STOKE) certification.

As well as receiving the certification, Diamond Peak must maintain this status. To do this the resort has reduced single use water bottles, invests in high-efficiency snowmaking and watershed restoration and provides free transportation to the mountain. The ski resort also has an educational component, including signage on chairlifts and lift towers promoting practical environmental action to “Keep Tahoe Blue.”

But the buck does not stop just at the resorts. No, infact we as parents and our kids can do more. So with that being here are 5 actions we can do with our kids based on the actions of resorts to conserve mother nature:

1. Stop using single-use plastics

Squaw Valley is another Lake Tahoe resort, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Like Diamond Peak, Squaw Valley seeks to eliminate single-use plastics.

To do this, Squaw Valley sells reusable bottles at the same price as bottled water and gives free refillable bottles to kids who trade in empty single-use bottles on Earth Day. Squaw Valley has eliminated over 360,000 plastic bottles since 2016.

What can we do?:

- Don’t buy disposable water and drink bottles. Carry your own bottle. Tuck it inside your ski coat or ski boot bag. Take it to school. Bring it on car and airplane trips. Refill and reuse.

- If you buy drinks, buy them in glass or aluminum and recycle.

- Drink from the drinking fountain if you don’t have a bottle.

- Wash out and reuse plastic sandwich bags. Don’t throw them away.

- Every time you throw away a container, think about how you can substitute something that won’t become trash.

- If your ski resort doesn’t have drinking fountains or bottle-filling stations, ask them to install some.

2. Reduce Food Waste

When we throw away food, we’re throwing away water, energy and other resources used to produce food. Plus, when food rots in a landfill it creates methane — a greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

To combat food waste, and increase recycling and composting, both Copper Mountain and Beaver Creek in Colorado eliminated trash cans in certain lodges. Instead, guests leave their food trays — and everything on them — at a central location for sorting and disposal.

Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico takes this further, using a food dehydrator that reduces solid food waste by 75% in just 10 hours. The result is a nutrient-rich soil amendment given to employees and local farms.

What can we do?:

- Only take the amount of food you know you will eat. If you have leftovers, save them for another meal.

- Bring meals and snacks in reusable containers. Take home what you don’t eat.

- Encourage your family to compost. You can do this outside, or inside with a container of worms. It’s science in action!

3. Use Renewable Energy

Switching to clean energy sources is important at many ski areas. Some, like Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Mountain Resort, purchase 100% of the energy needed to power the lifts and run the resorts from green sources — in this case, wind power.

Other resorts, like Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, installed wind turbines and solar arrays on-site with the goal of achieving “net zero” energy usage. Jiminy’s 1.5 megawatt wind turbine annually generates enough energy to drive 75 million miles in a car.

What can we do?:

- Be energy aware. Turn off lights, computers and televisions when not in use. Don’t use electricity that you don’t need.

- Take shorter showers. It takes electricity or natural gas to heat water!

- Instead of turning up the thermostat, put on another layer when you’re cold. Don’t forget to wear warm socks.

- Research clean energy in your community. Can your parents purchase wind or solar energy from your public utility?

- Encourage your parents to install solar panels or wind turbines at your home. Some states offer tax credits for these investments.

4. Avoid unnecessary use of fossil fuels

Fossil fuels have become a part of the management of ski resorts. But resorts around the world are now switching to green technology. In 2019 the worlds largest manufacturer of grooming machines, Pistenbully, launched the first all electric grooming machine the Pistenbully 100 E. In addition resorts are now replacing their petrol powered snowmobile fleets with all electric machines. In fact at the recent FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Åre (SWE), 50% of the sleds used were electric.

What can we do:

- Travel to your resort by public transport.

- If you must use a car ensure you don’t drive alone. Try carpooling.

- If you are flying anywhere for your ski holidays, fly with an airline that offsets their carbon emissions and make sure to check that box when purchasing your ticket.

5. Join the NSAA Climate Challenge

In addition to certification programs like STOKE and resort-based campaigns, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) in the U.S. sponsors the Climate Challenge program for ski resorts committed to decreasing their carbon footprint, implementing at least one on-site carbon reduction strategy per year, and advocating for smart climate policies.

While coordinated campaigns like these were rare just a decade ago but ski resorts now recognize that they are critical to their survival.

“When you look around the ski industry, you see there are many paths to climate change solutions that make sense for different businesses and communities,” says Adrienne Saia Isaac, Director of Marketing and Communications at NSAA. “Make no mistake, we're going to need many in order to protect outdoor recreation.”

And while the ski industry is beginning to do more to involve and educate kids around sustainability, “we can always do more to get the word out to kids on sustainability and good practices,” adds Isaac. “After all, they are the ones we are doing all this work for.”

What steps is your favorite ski area taking to combat climate change and support sustainability? Please let us know and until then enjoy!

Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.braveskimom.com