LAKEWOOD, Colorado, June 6, 2013 (ENS) – Ski areas from 24 states have signed the Climate Declaration, which calls on U.S. federal policymakers and legislators to seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change.

These 115 ski areas join Climate Declaration founding signatory Aspen Snowmass and 40 other American businesses, including General Motors, Nike and Levi Strauss & Co., as well as Ceres, a coalition of large investors, companies and public interest groups, in declaring that a bold response to the climate challenge is “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

Ski areas in the United States employ some 160,000 people and generate roughly $12.2 billion in annual revenue.

snowboarder Stevens Pass

Snowboarder Richard Lewis enjoys deep powder at Stevens Pass, Washington, one of the resorts that signed the Climate Declaration, March 2013. (Photo by Seattle Pat)

The National Ski Areas Association, NSAA, calculates that visitors to U.S. ski areas spent $5.8 billion at those resorts over the course of the 2011/2012 season. Preliminary figures from the 2012/2013 season show an 11 percent increase in visits year-over-year, to an estimated 56.6 million visits.

Geraldine Link, NSAA public policy director, said, “Ski area environmental programs have come a long way in 20 years, particularly in terms of their level of sophistication, demonstrated results, and their concerted focus on addressing climate change. Signing the Climate Declaration is the next logical step for our members to get solutions to scale.”

In its May 29 letter to Ceres’ advocacy coalition Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy, or BICEP, the NSAA wrote, “Ski areas across the country are concerned about the issue of climate change and its impacts on rising sea levels, wildlife habitat, the health of our forests, and truly our way of life. It is obvious that the success of ski business operations depends greatly on climate. Resorts have made tremendous efforts to raise awareness of the issue of climate change with our guests and with policy makers over the past decade. We have also made great strides in our operations to reduce carbon emissions.”

“We welcome legislative and regulatory initiatives that will reduce carbon emissions, incentivize renewable energy development and help improve our resiliency in the future,” the NSAA wrote.

“We welcome the ski industry as allies in our work on climate and energy issues and as signatories of the Climate Declaration,” said BICEP Director Anne Kelly. “This is an industry that cannot be off-shored, and they are calling for climate action here at home.”

“Policymakers must realize that the old political paradigm of ‘It’s the environment or the economy; pick one’ is a false choice. American businesses are ready to combat climate change, and policymakers should join them in leading the way.”

Brent Giles, chief sustainability officer for Powdr Corp of Utah, parent company to Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, Copper Mountain in Colorado and Killington Resort in Vermont supports the Climate Declaration.

“It is obvious that the success of ski business operations depends greatly on climate, which is why we are so invested in programs that keep our slopes sustainable. But our actions alone won’t be enough without strong policies,” said Giles. “We welcome legislative and regulatory initiatives that will reduce carbon emissions, incentivize renewable energy development and help improve our resiliency in the future.”

The signatory ski areas believe that taking action on their own is important, but they need action from Washington as well.

Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 2013 (Photo by mathomas81)

“The past ski season was a banner year for our guests and for our resort, but we can’t gamble on the weather in an uncertain climate. We have to take action,” said Jerry Blann, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. “Resorts have made tremendous efforts to raise awareness on the issue of climate change and to adjust our operations to reduce carbon emissions and manage resources efficiently. We need Washington to take those strategies seriously through stronger policies.”

Ski areas across the country adopted the NSAA Environmental Charter in 2000 to address the environmental concerns of the industry. The Charter, often called “Sustainable Slopes,” identifies climate change as a potential threat to the environment and the ski industry.

“Although we are not a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, many resorts across the country already are taking steps to reduce their own, limited GHG emissions,” NSAA said.

Two years ago, NSAA initiated the “Climate Challenge,” a voluntary program that helps participating ski areas reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reap other benefits in their operations, such as reducing costs of energy use. Resorts who take the Challenge are required to complete a climate inventory on their resort operations, set a target for greenhouse gas reduction, and implement a new program or project annually to meet the reduction goal.

To date, 20 resorts have taken the Challenge. Actions taken so far include lighting retrofits, development of on-site renewable energy such as solar and wind, and investment in high efficiency snowmaking equipment.

Apart from the Climate Challenge, ski areas are developing renewable energy on site through the application of wind, solar, geothermal and micro-hydro technology. Ski areas are applying energy-efficient green building techniques, retrofitting existing facilities to save energy, replacing inefficient compressors in snowmaking operations, using alternative fuels in resort vehicle fleets, implementing anti-idling policies and providing or promoting car pooling or mass transit use by guests and employees.

Ski areas are also supporting renewable energy by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits.

NSAA recently submitted testimony to the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change in Congress to encourage action in Washington on the issue of climate change. Over the past decade, ski areas have supported a variety of energy and climate proposals in Congress, as well as proposed climate policies from federal agencies, including cap and trade of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, extending the Investment Tax Credit and the Production Tax Credit, adopting renewable portfolio standards and cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicle emissions requirements, and EPA’s establishment of protective carbon emission standards for new power plants.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2013. All rights reserved.