As skiers, we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of the mountains we ride. Sustainability is vital for our future. David Perry, one the ski industry's most knowledgeable advocates for preservation of our mountain resources, sees a true sustainable future - if we can all work together! Ski Utah's Last Chair takes a look into our future and the vital steps we must take now.
Perry has spent his entire career on the tops of mountains, from the Canadian Rockies to Colorado. Today he serves as executive vice president, environment, social, governance for Alterra Mountain Company, with resorts around the USA and Canada, including Utah's own Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort. His passion for being a good steward of our mountain landscapes runs deep.
While Perry works for Alterra, his impact is broad. In the highly competitive world of ski resorts, one topic brings all skiers and snowboarders together - preserving our environment for the future.
When did you really develop your passion for sustainability?
I really gained an education about what environmental activism was about when I got to Colorado and realized that, you know what, we've got this pristine natural environment and we're not treating it with enough respect. And we're also, frankly, the true canaries in the coal mine. We are the people in the high mountain places that are witnessing the impacts of climate change firsthand. And that's still the case today, because we know this climate is changing. It's been really difficult to get people's attention on sustainability. But ski area operators, skiers, snowboarders, mountain lovers - they know it's happening.
How is the resort industry working together?
Our industry association - the National Ski Areas Association - has a really robust roadmap for how to tackle environmental sustainability in our industry. A lot of work's been done. Alterra is a leader, Vail Resorts is really on board as a leader, as well as POWDR Corp and Boyne. We've rallied around a set of action steps that we should all focus upon.
What is the outlook 25 years from now?
There are two possible futures. The future I like to believe is possible is us coming together within a short number of years, reducing our CO2 emissions and our carbon footprint to a degree where we can slow, stop and then even reverse climate change in the coming years and decades. That's a global effort. But we need to do our part. There's also a picture of the future that I don't like to believe that we're going to allow to happen as human beings. We have the power to clean up our environment, to reduce - get off - our dependency on fossil fuels, reduce the carbon output, reduce CO2 in our atmosphere and stabilize our climate. It's in our hands.
In this week's podcast with Alterra leader David Perry, you'll learn about sustainability, plus a lot more about Perry's fascinating connectivity with the sport, the environment and Utah.
If you are a skier, snowboarder, or just love life in the mountains, this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery is an important listen for you. You can find Last Chair on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.
Areas of Sustainability Focus
The topic of sustainability is complex. What is the science? How does it impact our future? What can we do about it? David Perry identified several broad areas of engagement - for the resort industry and for each of us as skiers and snowboarders. Listen to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast to learn more.
"Number one is energy," said Perry. How can resorts and all of us better use renewable energy? "The move to renewable energy to sustain operations, to run our lifts, our buildings, our snowmaking systems and everything on 100% renewable or create enough energy to offset your energy use. in Utah, Rocky Mountain Power is moving very aggressively to wean the power grid there off of fossil fuels, coal, natural gas-fired plants and move to renewables - wind and solar primarily."
Climate Action and Advocacy
Sometimes we need to make our voices heard! "I call it climate action and advocacy," said Perry. "We as mountain enthusiasts and ski areas can use our voice to talk to others to say, 'we've experienced climate change firsthand and we're doing what we can in our town or in our environment to clean it up.'" How can skiers help? Talk to others, talk to your state and federal representatives. Talk with your action and your supporting words.
Good Stewards of Our Habitat
How do we protect our habitat? Are we good stewards of our natural resources? "It's everything from water resources to our forest health and habitat, making sure that we are operating our ski areas in our beautiful mountain places really responsibly," said Perry. Resorts watch for run off that can damage wildlife habitat, and monitor forest health for pine beetle epidemics or wildfire danger - impacts of climate change.
Recycling is a basic tenet of being a good steward. "Waste reduction, composting and recycling are really critical elements of living a sustainable lifestyle," said Perry. "But we as operators also have to provide that to make it seamless and easy to do. If you go from place to place and there's no obvious place to recycle your glass and aluminum and it all goes in the trash in the landfill, speak up saying, 'why do you not have recycling bins here?'"
Simple as it may sound, carpooling makes a difference. So does taking the bus or advocating for cleaner fuels for buses. "People today have to burn fossil fuels to get to our ski areas, to enjoy their favorite pastime," said Perry. "Are you willing to drive less? Are you willing to look at a hybrid vehicle, an all-electric vehicle as the grid is starting to support that."
Expansion of bus service, like was done in Big Cottonwood Canyon, will reduce car traffic. "It's essential we use our mass transit or shared transit options and we have to improve them," said Perry. "That's one way to reduce our fossil fuel burning habits. It's an essential sense of social responsibility."
Each of us can do our own part by being good stewards of our landscape. Banded together, we can speak with a stronger voice. Perry is a supporter of Protect Our Winters, which has become a highly organized voice for the long-term protection of our outdoor resources. "Protect Our Winters is really committed to action on climate change," said Perry of POW, which was formed by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones. "It's grown dramatically and is a very professional nonprofit organization, is very well organized." Skiers and riders can join POW to support its efforts, and to better understand how they can carry the message to others.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| I'm happy to welcome my longtime friend David Perry to Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast. David, thanks for taking a little time on this spring day.
David Perry: |00:00:10| It's great to talk to you, Tom. It's good to see you virtually. You know, I always get excited to see people these days because I've been closed in like so many for so long. And I've been getting a little squirrely here.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:21| Well, there's a whole different paradigm these days on how we communicate, how we see each other. David, I want to start out and just give a thanks to you and the entire Alterra Mountain Company and everyone in the ski industry for getting us out there this winter and staying open all season. I know there were a lot of sacrifices to do that, but as skiers and snowboarders, we really appreciate that.
David Perry: |00:00:44| Well, thanks, Tom. Yeah, it wasn't a given that we'd be able to keep all our resorts open all winter long. And, you know, I've talked to a lot of colleagues in the industry and many people have worked really hard to make that happen, to keep people safe and approachable. There have been shutdowns in Europe, as you know, for ski areas. We had one shutdown in one of our Canadian resorts and Alterra couldn't run Canadian Mountain Holidays this winter, our heli ski operation, because of group gatherings. But, for the most part, we've been able to stay open. And we are so happy that obviously in Utah, where we want solitude and Deer Valley and our partners with some great mountains on the icon pass, we're thrilled that, you know, it's been a solid winter and we're really happy about that.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:30| We're going to talk sustainability today. But before we get into that, I think everyone who's gone through life over the last year has learned a lot of new things. And businesses have tried new systems and alternative approaches to things. And I would imagine that Alterra is no different - that you probably did some things this year where the learning is going to be, 'hey, we want to keep doing this.'
David Perry: |00:01:51| No question about it, you know, all ski area operators and a lot of businesses had to push themselves really, really hard this year to figure out how to operate safely and comfortably and in an ever changing environment. And so we had to adopt, like a lot of folks, a lot of different procedures and operating plans. And, yeah, we've talked very much about, oh, we've learned things ourselves and we will keep for the long term post-pandemic. And yeah, there's been some very good learnings, which I think is ultimately going to make us more efficient, is going to make the experience more seamless and I think better for everybody.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:28| David, let's talk about your present role at Alterra. You actually started the company as founding president and CEO and now serve in an environmental role. What is your title now and what are your responsibilities with Alterra?
David Perry: |00:02:43| We started in August 1st 2017 when Alterra was first formed. Does it seem like it's coming up on our fourth anniversary? And for the first two and a half years, I was the president and chief operating officer of Alterra as we started to build the foundation of the company. And one of the things we really wanted to build into Alterra's culture right from the beginning was our commitment to ESG - that's environment, social and governance. And so we took the opportunity as we got bigger and the operating role, frankly, I was traveling all the time. We took the opportunity for me to move over and take the ESG portfolio and build that for the first time in Alterra. So I'm responsible for environmental sustainability, social efforts like diversity, equity and inclusion and the governance of the company. So I'm an executive vice president of ESG and special environmental
Tom Kelly: |00:03:43| On the environmental part. We're talking sustainability today, but has that been a passion of yours personally as you've made your way around to different major resorts in North America?
David Perry: |00:03:54| Yeah, very much so. You know, a lot of people have a passion. And I think a lot of skiers and snowboarders and winter sports enthusiasts particularly have a passion for taking care of our environment. It's essential to what we do. I've had a longstanding love affair with our environment and our mountains. And it's interesting, prior to Altera, I was in Aspen Skiing Company where we did a lot on environmental sustainability. And even before that, where I came from, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, you know, it was a mainstay of our approach to the maintaining and managing the whole resort. And so I've been a squeaky wheel of environmental sustainability and taking real action, meaningful action on sustaining our environment over the years. And because I was a squeaky wheel within Alterra, it's what you do. It's like you put your hand up. I said, well, you talk about it so much, why don't you do it yourself? It's I mean, which is a great thing because I love anything we can do to you know, as I say, I define sustainability as being in business forever. And if we can be in the mountain resort business and the ski business forever, then we've accomplished our mission. And then we can have a place for our children and grandchildren to live the life that we love so much in the mountains. And that to me, there's nothing more important.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:20| David, you grew up in Canada in what is arguably one of the world's most amazingly beautiful locations in the Banff and the Lake Louise area. How did you initially develop this passion for the outdoors and for the mountain landscape?
David Perry: |00:05:34| Well, yeah, I mean, I spent a good 10 years early on in the ski resort business in the Banff area was I was putting myself through university. My very first job in the mountain resort business was given to me by Hans Gmoser, who was the founder of heli-skiing, and he created Canadian Mountain Holidays. He hired me, I hate to say the date, but it was 1977. He gave me a job and it was an introduction to heli-skiing and people didn't know what heli-skiing was back then. We had long skinny skis that were stiff and people would say 'can I do it? Is it hard.' And the answer is, well yes you can do it. And yes, it's hard. You know, Hans really was a mentor of mine and was a passionate - in his day in the 60s and 70s - environmentalist. Really! You didn't have that title back then. But he was so committed to bringing people into nature, into pristine mountain environments and having experiences that brought people together in those mountain environments. That's what he was all about. You know, he used to describe something, I'll butcher the German word that he used for it. But if he calls it his lodge magic. So after your ski tour in or out in the mountains for a day and you gather back in the lodge and there's that magic of being together or you have some food and maybe you have a drink, you tell some stories, you have some music, you know, and you and people are just warm and feeling good together. And I think that's something that's so important in our business that we don't lose sight of the fact that bringing people together and beautiful mountain environments is really at the core of what we do. So without that ethic was instilled in me early on. I mean, as a young kid to our family, I was one of six kids. And, you know, my parents would drag us around in a station wagon to go skiing. But, you know, really was Hans Gmoser, who is still a real love of the mountains with me. And I've carried that with me ever since.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:29| When you were up there, maybe coming off the helicopters and standing on those amazing alpine peaks, what was the feeling that you got that really helped to further instill this in you?
David Perry: |00:07:40| Yeah, the feeling when you get on top of a mountain, whether you've climbed up there yourself or you've taken lift all or most of the way, or you've used some fossil fuels to get a helicopter to drop you, that feeling when you get dropped at the top of the mountain heli skiing and then the helicopter leaves and you're all alone and you look around, it's a powerful and moving feeling. You feel, I feel, frankly, I'm at one with the universe when I'm on the top of a mountain. It is my cathedral. It is where I feel the most spiritually connected. I take a deep breath. I never get tired of it. I appreciate it every single time. And I feel like, oh, my gosh, I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to commune with nature in this way, in this place. So, yeah, there's nothing beats that feeling of being at the top of a mountain after the helicopter leaves you and you're standing there maybe with a few friends before you actually ski down is the best.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:40| No, it really is, it's what we all live for, and I was just up in the mountain yesterday and we all have those special places on the mountain that we want to go to to not just slide down, but to just stand there for a minute and take in the scenery. But you had the opportunity, starting with Hans Gmoser, to work in the industry. And your career path took you to Whistler Blackcomb, to Aspen and then to Alterra. Talk a bit first, if you could, about your experience in Whistler Blackcomb.
David Perry: |00:09:08| Yeah, you know, I arrived in Whistler Blackcomb in 1980 and it was basically just after the first year the Blackcomb Mountain opened up in the same year as Beaver Creek, actually Whistler Mountain had been there since sixty eight. But Whistler, the village itself, was just on the map. And so frankly, I moved from the Banff Lake Louise area, which I still love to this day, to the Whistler Blackcomb area for opportunity. To be honest. That was a young mountain town just coming out of the ground and there was a grand dream there to build a two mountain complex that could be one of the best in the world. And so I was fortunate enough to move there and be more or less on the ground floor of the development of Whistler Blackcomb and Whistler Village. I ended up spending in all 18 years there, doing just about everything. You know, I started just frankly, teaching and coaching, skiing and then quickly moved into a marketing role. So in the eighties and I was the marketing director at Blackcomb Mountain before Blackcomb and Whistler merged into one operation. They were separately owned back then. And our job was to just build the place, make it as great as it could be, and put it on the world map. And we were successful at that. I remember coming to Colorado actually to ski in the eighties and it was nineteen eighty eight, as a matter of fact, and it came down to the World Cup event in Aspen in March of that year.
David Perry: |00:10:44| And I remember riding up the chairlift and people ask me where I was from and I said, well, I'm from Whistler Blackcomb and they go with that and these are skiers and this is only eighty eight. So it wasn't that long ago and they really hadn't heard of Whistler, hadn't really popped up on the radar. And you know, in the early 90s I think it was nineteen ninety three or ninety four. SKI Magazine had their cover, said they had their annual report rankings and they said number one Vail because it was always number one back then. And number two said, you'll never guess. And of course what people do is they open up the magazine and they go to the center spread. And it was this big double page spread of the two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, most people have never seen or heard of. And it rocketed to number two in SKI's rankings. And so, you know, from then on, we started to be on the world stage. And, you know, whether it be from Japan or from Europe or certainly in the American audience, a lot of Americans started going up to Canada and experiencing Whistler Blackcomb. And frankly, Tom, it wasn't always a positive experience, I mean, newcomers to Whistler Blackcomb saw in the pictures bluebird sky, two big mountains. Well, you've been there a lot. You know, it's not bluebird very often up there. That's a coastal range mountain resort where you get fog and rain and wind and heavy snow and sometimes it's beautiful and amazing. So a lot of people went there for the first time and were disappointed. They said, oh, my gosh, it's raining and it's wet and it's foggy. You can't see the snow so heavy. But we had to actually turn that negative into a positive during that time. It was so blackcomb we had to make the big mountain and the big weather and the big coastal rainforest and the big glaciers into an adventure story. So are you tough enough? Are you man and woman enough to handle this? If you are, come on up and give it a shot. And so we made it kind of a rite of passage. If you could go and ski was sort of Blackcomb and handle it and be proud of it, then you were cool. And we turned bad weather into cool and that Whistler and Blackcomb became, you know, hit two million square days a year. And you came on the world stage and that's when I got recruited to move to Colorado and changed our family's life, which we're forever grateful for because we still live in Colorado to this day. We raised our kids in Colorado and this is home
Tom Kelly: |00:13:13| Along the way. David, when did the concept of sustainability and an industry responsibility, when did you see that starting to come in?
David Perry: |00:13:24| I would say I was most aware when I moved Colorado. I mean, I had the foundation from Hans and from Whistler. But when I moved to Colorado in 2000 and I was initially the CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, and then two years later, I moved over to Aspen Skiing Company and became the chief operating officer. But, Aspen had the first-ever director of sustainability in the industry on staff at that time in the late 90s was '99, '98-'99. The Harris director Sustainability and the CEO at that time was Pat O'Donnell, and he was a former head of the Yosemite Institute and a just a really devoted environmentalist. And I gave him a lot of credit for pushing the envelope and bringing environmentalism into the ski resort business, sometimes in a very unpopular way. Because Aspen's push on environmental sustainability has not always been well received within the industry. But I really gained an education about what environmental activism was when I got to Colorado in 2000, 2002 and realized that, you know what? We've got this pristine natural environment and we're not treating it with enough respect. And we're also, frankly, the true canaries in the coal mine. We are the people in the high mountain places that are witnessing the impacts of climate change firsthand. And that's still the case today, because we know this climate is changing, people in high mountain places or in far north places in the Arctic are seeing and feeling the changes most dramatically.
David Perry: |00:15:06| And we scurry around like Chicken Little a little bit saying, you know, the sky is falling, the sky is falling and we have to do something about this. And it's been really difficult to get people's attention on sustainability. But ski area operators, skiers and snowboarders, mountain lovers, they know it's happening. It's not a discussion. It's not an argument. Human caused climate change has never been really and much debated in mountain towns. And it still isn't today because we know we see that shortening winters. We see the warming temperatures. We live and work and play in places where in January and February you would never see rain. Now you see rain, even in Utah, Colorado, mountains up high, you see rain in the middle of winter, which, you know, not that long ago, that was a rare occurrence. So, you know, I really grabbed a hold of that environmental ethic in my early Aspen days. And we really focused on doing what we could to bring our own operations, as I call it, green, our own house, because if we could try to lecture people about climate change and get them to believe us, but we didn't. We're running our own operation really responsibly. You know, we were hypocrites and we deserve to be called out. You know, people call it greenwashing, like, well, who are you? Look at you. People are flying in on their private jets to ski in Aspen, have a huge carbon footprint, and you're running lifts on electricity and people are burning fossil fuels to get there.
David Perry: |00:16:35| Like, what do you know? How can you talk about climate change? You know, you're a hypocrite. And you know what? They were right. It really takes us to be honest with ourselves first about our own failings and our own shortcomings as an industry in a skier's before we can fix our own operations and then go out with a clear conscience and talk to others about what they can do. And so that's what the industry has been doing. And we did it in Aspen. Aspen finally got to the point where we got a 100 percent renewable energy and it was a journey we tried a micro hydro plant, on our snowmaking system pipes reversing the pipes to run a little hydro system. And that worked. But it wasn't big enough. We tried putting a wind turbine on the top of Snowmass above tree line to test it for wind so we could generate wind power and the winds were too turbulent and too strong. And we actually broke off the test tower snapped in two because of the high winds up there. So we did the wind turbine wasn't going to work there. And then we invested in a solar array in Carbondale, just down the valley from Aspen in Snowmass on a college campus. And we put them in. And that was effective, too. But it wasn't enough. And then, you know, Tom, we went out outside the box, we found a coal mine, which is twenty five miles away from Aspen in Somerset, that, frankly, was venting methane out of their coal mine so the miners could work in.
David Perry: |00:18:03| And that methane, of course, which is a very potent greenhouse gas, many times more potent than CO2, was just being vented into the atmosphere. And so we approached the owners of the mine saying, can we take the methane? You're venting out of the mines and turn it into electricity, use it to power electric generator and create electricity that way. And they went. And the miners, you know, they said, well, we don't really believe in this climate change stuff, but, you know, we hate to see a wasted resource. So sure, you go ahead and use that methane. So we built a plant and we turned the methane into electricity. And that offset one hundred percent of Aspen Skiing Company's electricity needs for all our buildings, lifts and snowmaking. And it also was profitable, had a return, an IRR, so that was a six million dollar project that we put in. And so you demonstrated that if we try hard enough, even ski areas, you can figure out a way to run a green operation. Know we responsible stewards of the environment take care of your habitat, your water, your forests, but also most importantly, is getting on renewable energy so that we're not contributors to climate change. That gives us a platform. And it is in Aspen. And I carry that platform forward, a platform, a soapbox per se to talk about what needs to happen and go to the halls of power in the local governments and the state governments and frankly, to Washington, D.C., and talk to people about policy change that we need to save our planet.
David Perry: |00:19:44| And we have a story to tell. Well, we fixed our own operation now invite you to join us and do more. We need to do this on scale. This, frankly, Tom, you know, every ski area in the country could be running 100 percent renewable energy would be really good stewards of the environment. We're not there today, but we could be and we still would not make a dent in human caused climate change. This must be done on an industrial scale, global scale. This is a global issue. But I believe that as people from mountain towns that love our natural environment have made progress on greening, our own operations can be voices of reason in the debate about human caused climate change and pushing for policies at the highest levels of government in order to facilitate real change. I think it's not only an opportunity, it's a responsibility that we have. And that isn't just our company. It's all of us together. Together, we can be a very loud voice and for good and to preserve these perfect places for generations to come. So, you know, I definitely have a bit of a soapbox. I believe in this passionately. And I think we have an extremely important role as skiers and snowboarders and mountain enthusiasts.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:06| Those are some fascinating examples. And I had read about the coal mine innovation that you came up with, which just seems brilliant. Climate change, sustainability. It is very, very complex to a lot of people and oftentimes contentious. Is there maybe a prioritization or there are some really key, simple points that we as skiers and snowboarders can be aware of. I mean, what is the priority within the industry and the things that you look at one, two, three, four that are most important?
David Perry: |00:21:37| That's a great question, Tom. And, you know, one of the very good things is happening in the mountain resort industry. And actually, through our industry association - the National Ski Areas Association - they've come up with a really robust roadmap for how to tackle environmental sustainability in our industry. You know, a lot of work's been done. And so there's some real leaders in the industry. You know, Alterra is a leader, Aspen Skiing Company is a leader, Vail Resorts is really on board as a leader, as POWDR Corp, Boyne. We've got a lot of leaders in our industry and we've rallied around a set of sort of action steps that we should all focus upon and make, it really starts. And I would say, number one, and I've mentioned this previously, is energy. Being the move to renewable energy to sustain operations, and that's to run our lifts, our buildings, our snowmaking systems and everything on one hundred percent renewable or or create enough energy in order to offset your energy use. So that's number one. And, you know, it's some really great things are happening. I mean, I told the story of the coal mine methane, but I'm impressed. Like, for example, in Utah, Rocky Mountain Power, the utility provider is moving very aggressively to move there. The grid, the source of electricity as fast to renewables as they possibly can and to wean the power grid there off of fossil fuels, coal, natural gas fired plants and move to renewables, wind and solar primarily.
David Perry: |00:23:12| And, you know, it's great to see that both economically feasible right now, but it takes real leadership at the utility provider level and at the state level to push those utilities in, to support their work and to shift to renewable energy. So scary is that there's many ways you can do it, but you can't necessarily if your source of electricity from your utility is not clean and it's coming from coal-fired or gas fired power plants, it's not there's not a lot you can do. Right. It's hard to generate that much electricity at your resort. You could generate it off site. You could buy power agreements to buy these solar and wind power that your utility providers get. But most of you need to push them to green up their power supply. So working collectively, I think that's by far the number one priority is looking at your energy sources in mountain towns. There's a great cooperative move in the whole Park City, Deer Valley area with a paid power agreement with Rocky Mountain Power to be operating in a half percent renewable energy. I think that's just fantastic. There's moves and other places to do exactly the same thing. One in Lake Tahoe, where we own Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows and the whole Lake Tahoe Truckee area is moving to do exactly the same thing as a paid power agreement.
David Perry: |00:24:33| So those resorts in that town can operate 100 percent renewable energy. And those are things to be really proud of. So by far, in a way, to me, is focusing on renewable energy sources, not only what you can do yourself and to be efficient in how you use your energy. So going to energy efficiency is really important. So if you can have energy efficient buildings, you may be electric power. If the power is clean coming from the grid, if you can make your snowmaking systems more efficient. And there's been really good move on technology to make snowmaking much more efficient. This is a lot less energy, makes a lot more snow more quickly, and then billions of snow making that big, too. And you use a lot of electricity and lifts, too. And so making sure your power grid is green for lifts that no one.
David Perry: |00:25:23| Number two, in my opinion, actually is using that work, and I call it climate action, action and advocacy. You know, we as mountain enthusiasts and ski areas and skiers can use our voice to talk to others, to say, you know what, we've experienced climate change firsthand and we're doing what we can in our town or in our environment to clean it up. But we need you to help us and talk to politicians, talk to policymakers in a calm and reasonable way to come up with joint solutions. These are not partisan issues, in my opinion. Climate ... taking action on cleaning up our energy grid and our energy supplies in this country to have a renewable and renewable energy should never have been and should never be a partisan issue. We can clean up our environment, we can create jobs, and we're still going to be a place for fossil fuels. We're not going to completely wean ourselves off of that overnight. And so we're not anti fossil fuel. There's a place for fossil fuels. They've created this economy that we have. But we have a really great opportunity to advocate for a clean energy economy in this country and around the world. Frankly, there's people even in the fossil fuel business of oil and gas businesses and coal businesses that they recognize that they have to change. And the big fossil fuel companies are investing in renewable energy because they see the world changing. They're not they're not stupid, they realize there's pressure on fossil fuels and they can't continue just to burn freely, the move to electric vehicles, you know, to to renewable energy in our grid augment the affordability of solar and wind power to augment our other power supplies are really important steps that we ask you as an advocate for.
David Perry: |00:27:16| If you believe in this and you believe in human caused climate change and doing something about it, then I urge you to speak up and there are ways you can speak up. You can certainly write to your elected official. You can pick up the phone and call your congressman or congresswoman, your senator and tell them what you think. The phone is very, very effective. By the way, Tom, signing a form letter is not nearly as effective. But if you pick up the phone and call your congresswoman or congressman and tell them what you think about taking action on cleaning up our climate and getting weaned off fossil fuels, they will take note. They will take notice.
David Perry: |00:27:56| So that number two would be advocacy number three. And it's hard to put them in order. But really, it's about you know, it's everything from water resources to our forest health and habitat, making sure that we are operating our ski areas in our in our beautiful mountain places really responsibly. You know, we want to make sure that we don't have unchecked run off our mountains in spring that are muddy the streams and hurting habitat for fish and other creatures. We want to make sure our forests are healthy, that we've you know, we take care of them so that we're not at risk for forest fires or worse, at high risk for pine beetle epidemics by having healthy forest.
David Perry: |00:28:39| And we can do, you know, and work on our transportation, too, because I would put that as number four, because people have to burn today fossil fuels to get to our ski areas, to enjoy their favorite pastime and are driving a car. They're taking a bus or they're flying on a plane or all of the above. So whatever you can do to be responsible yourself in your own lifestyle habits, you know, are you willing to drive less? You know, are you willing to not have a big truck if you don't need a big truck or are you willing to look at a hybrid vehicle for your needs if it's mostly commuting between the city and the ski area, an all electric vehicle, as the grid is starting to support that, you know, what can you do? Are you pushing for recycling? If you go from place to place and there's no obvious place to recycle your glass and aluminum and it all goes in the trash in the landfill, speak up saying, why do you not have recycling bins here? You ask the question. So I think the time I start with energy, number one, action and advocacy. Number two, really clean up our habitat where we do business number three and then thinking about what you can do personally in your own personal lifestyle habits to support all of the changes needed.
Tom Kelly: |00:29:57| I want to talk a little bit more about the transportation aspect. I mean, this is a problem that has multiple heads and we have it in the Cottonwoods, Little and Big Cottonwood, Colorado, has it on the I70 corridor where people are driving cars, sometimes by themselves up to the resorts. And it has been interesting here to watch some of the changes we've seen over the last two years at Solitude and Brighton in Big Cottonwood, where UTA has stepped up the transportation in concert with the resorts. Do you see more partnerships like that to get more mass transit into the resorts?
David Perry: |00:30:33| Yes, I do, Tom. I think it's essential we have to use our mass transit or shared transit options and we have to improve them. That's one way to reduce our fossil fuel burning habits. Right. You know, for example, you know, I'm in the Aspen Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado right now, and there has long been a free bus service for people staying between Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. And it's funded by the ski areas and taxes. But skiers and riders and snowboarders can ride for free. And they've converted a big chunk of that fleet of the buses to CNG - compressed natural gas. That's a much cleaner fuel. And then we're operating on diesel power. It's not complete. The whole fleet is on CNG. But you can operate buses, you know, from the whole Salt Lakes valley up to the ski areas on compressed natural gas. And you've got a very clean alternative. Even though it is natural gas, it's clean and it's quite efficient and it's a lot better than other sources of energy. If you get people to park a park and ride lots so they're not driving one or two people in a vehicle and then take the shuttle, that would be a big help. It's not easy. This is an automobile culture in this country, we're very proud of that. You know, I got my car, I got my two cars, my three cars. And I like to drive myself to my destination to have the flexibility to get in my car and leave whenever I want. And, you know, getting all of us to park and get on a bus is hard.
David Perry: |00:32:11| It's hard. But if we realize we're doing the right thing for our security is the right thing for our environment, and we're really shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens to do the right thing. It's essential sense of social responsibility that I think that we all have and we share that we need to tap into people to do that kind of thing. I mean, even carpooling helps. Putting four or six people in a vehicle reminds me of Aspen Highlands, which is one of my local ski areas. You can park for free there if you had four people in your car instead of paying enough to get into the parking lot. And so what do people do? Lots of people take the bus to the rec center and they stand out on the side of the road and people with only two or three people in their car stop and fill it up with four so they can park for free. All right. It helps. It's a little bit you know, it's you know, it's paid parking a good thing. Well, it's a deterrent to not doing other, you know, other methods to get to the ski area. So the transportation piece is a big one. Air travel is another one. That's not easy. But there is a move to renewable fuels, too, and other sources, instead of, you know, pumped out of the ground. That may be a future solution even for jet travel to have fossil fuels that are sustainably grown and actually reduce emissions and reduce our dependency on digging oil and gas wells.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:43| I loved your Aspen Highlands example - maybe not exactly the advocacy we were hoping for, but maybe a start. I want to go back to the bus service in Big Cottonwood. I've really enjoyed taking that. And the 15 minute frequency or 15 or 20 minute frequency frequencies has made it very practical. You don't have to plan your whole day around. What time does the bus go? I know that the covid year kind of threw a wrench in some of that. But what have you seen at Solitude? Has that been a pretty impactful program so far?
David Perry: |00:34:12| Yeah, very much so. It's been huge for Solitude and for Brighton to have to have that service and have the employees using the service, you know, with their cards and the expansion of the lots at the base of the canyon. That's very, very important. Having convenient places to park that are central for people who still have to get from their home somehow to close as a central location and then getting on a really efficient bus transport system to and from that's a really big step in the right direction. And setting that example, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a really good example of how that's coming together nicely. I know there's been brand talk about more bigger imagined and more imaginative solutions to transportation and in Utah. But this is a good one for now. That helps right now.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:07| Well, it's been a big help we had on the podcast a month or so ago, Chris McCandless, who is a skier and a local developer who has actually a seemingly realistic proposal for a gondola system to go up Little Cottonwood. And that was a really interesting discussion with him.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:24| David, I want to talk about a topic you mentioned earlier. It's not the sexiest one, but waste diversion. I know that this isn't often talked about, but it is something that a number of resorts are really getting in on. Deer Valley I know is recycling now or composting almost 50 percent of its waste. Small area maybe. But how important is it in the big picture?
David Perry: |00:35:48| I think it's part of a sustainable lifestyle and I think that waste reduction and composting and recycling are really critical elements of living a sustainable lifestyle personally. But we as operators also have to provide that to make it seamless and easy to do. For example, if you're going to a restaurant at the mountain, let's make sure that the plates, the cutlery, the cups are either compostable or recyclable. And you've got easy to place places to place them. And you know what goes in compost. And when you know what goes in recycling and is efficiently taken away so that you can really reduce the waste and also the, you know, ultimately reducing carbon, but not putting it in the landfill. So, yeah, I think that people need to change right now. And a lot of places, frankly, you'll go to a cafeteria or get your plate of food and there will be plastic wrapping. They'll be packaging plastic cutlery, a plastic cup with a soft drink in it. And you saw it all in the trash and it gets bundled up in plastic bags, goes in trucks and goes to the landfill. Well, that's just tragic. You know, it's just so unnecessary. We can reduce our waste to landfill by massive amounts. 50 percent is a really good start, targeting 50 percent. Can we get to 90 percent reducing landfills? And we know that people landfills or dumps, as we always used to call them, they're the really sad places. Right. But they're hidden away. They're not in front of our eyes. We don't see them. We don't see or smell what's actually going on as we're just pushing dirt over piles of garbage in our mountain towns and in our communities.
David Perry: |00:37:30| And reducing waste to landfill is something that's really important. And I think we can be leaders in mountain towns. You know, I attended a really great conference the year before last in Park City called Mountain Town 20 30, and was able to sit on a panel and talk about that with the ski companies. And it was on this panel was Vail Resorts, POWDR Corporation, Boyne Resorts and Alterra. And we all agreed on that panel and had a charter at the end of that conference that we were all committed together to work on sustainability, practice best practices in our industry and to lead the way. And so that was a really encouraging time and courage and conference and that work along with what NSA is doing. One of the key components of that is reducing waste, reducing our footprint and the amount of garbage that we produce. But the operator has to take the lead and then we ask our customers to support us. Or ultimately as a customer, you can ask for it and demand it. If you don't see a recycling bin and there is no composting in this area, go up to the manager, say, how come we're not composting? Why are you not recycling? Why is this going to the trash? The more you raised your voice, even on small levels like that, the bigger the difference it makes. We all have to be the squeaky wheels of these things.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:50| David, you talked a lot about the individual advocacy like that that we all can do and how we can change our own personal habits. Are there any organizations or causes that we as skiers and snowboarders can support to help further this effort on a global scale?
David Perry: |00:39:06| Yeah, I do believe there is. You know, I'm a big supporter of Protect our Winters. You know, that's a nonprofit organization that is really committed to action on climate change. And it was founded by Jeremy Jones, pro snowboarder and its early days. It was a bunch of snow sports athletes getting together, making some noise and going to DC - Washington, DC - and visiting with elected officials there to talk about what was happening in the mountains. It's grown dramatically now. It's a very professional nonprofit organization, is very well organized, has been growing their membership dramatically. And it's all about taking action on climate. And it isn't just snowsports participants and enthusiasts. Now they've expanded into the climbing community, expanded into the running community and water sports and ultra running. And so Protect Our Winters is an organization that we ... as soon as we launched the IKON Pass and created it, the start of Alterra we partnered with. Right out of the chute as a key partner of ours, because we really like the work that they were doing. I've been on many missions with Powell. They're really good at. Distilling the science right down to really easy to understand rationale, because there's a lot of people, if you talk about climate change, still don't think the science is settled. Right. You have to understand the science is one 198.99 percent in favor of understanding that climate change is large, that human cause they settle the science.
David Perry: |00:40:39| They've done studies on the economic impacts of not taking action in towns like Park City. Park City has been a real leader in studying the potential economic negative, negative economic effects of climate change. And then they bring athletes and gold medalists and business people to Washington, D.C. And I've gone on these missions and we knock on doors and we go and see senators and other and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and tell them our story. And it's not confrontational. We're not just pounding our fist on the table saying we need action here in DC to support if it's a Republican administration or a Democratic administration. Frankly, we spend more time in the Republican offices of Republican elected officials than the Dems and we tell them, say, you know what, we understand that this is a difficult topic for you and who elected you. But let us just couch it this way. And let's talk about what solutions we think could take action to get ourselves onto a clean energy economy and renewable power sources that isn't going to do anything to hurt any part of our economy is actually economically positive. And if it has the side effect of slowing and stopping global climate change, well, that's a bonus.
David Perry: |00:41:59| And, you know, they've got a script at POW and it's a good script to talk to people without challenging their belief systems, their solutions to change that we think everyone can endorse. I mean, we could get into more detail about the gridlock in Washington, which is a real problem to making progress on climate policy. But, you know, today, right now, we have an administration that is committed to action on climate change and reengaging with the Paris Accords and changing our energy supply in this country to a green energy economy and creating new jobs. So I think that's a very positive thing. I don't want it to be a partisan issue. I'd like to bring our Republican colleagues along with us on this one so we can all lock arms and say this is good for the planet and it's good for our economy. All in one, it's a win win win. That's what we'd like to achieve. So anyway, that's that's a little bit long winded to say Protect Our Winters as an organization. If you haven't joined, go to ProtectOurWinters.org and join up and do what you can. Take the pledge and they'll give you the tools to do what you need to do.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:13| But it's good counsel. And you know, the way I've always approached this with people, climate change can get very difficult and it can get very scientific. And I don't really understand all of that. But it's just like as skiers, we take care of our skis, we take care of our home, and we ought to be good stewards of the snow on which we ski.
David Perry: |00:43:33| You're a hundred percent, right, Tom. And that's a great way to approach it. And it's like, OK, not everyone goes up to the mountains a hundred days a year and notices the winter is getting shorter. You know, if you're in a city and you listen to the weather on the news, talk about people, celebrate the fact that there's winter shorter in the cities they don't like, you know, not a lot of cities love more snow and snowstorms and gridlock and traffic. You know, we've had one the weather summits, where television weather folks have come and we said, can you please change your language? There should be no such thing as a bad snowstorm.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:11| Exactly.
David Perry: |00:44:12| Take that out of your vernacular, please. I think also spawns those storms are ultimately good things, right? They are. But, yeah, you know, you take care of, you know, your house, you take care of your family, you take care of the recreational part of your life. It's important to and that's the mountains. And whether you're hiking in the summer or mountain biking or skiing and snowboarding in the winter, you want to take care of that, too. You want that to be just the way it is today for your great grandchildren. Right. So what can you do today to take care of things for your next generations and and really to put it on your own shoulders, to say, you know what, this isn't just about me. It's about the next generation and generation. After that, do we really want to be the ones that have the weight of messing up this planet on our shoulders and didn't do anything about it? Really? Is that what we want to take to our grave? I don't think so. I think we want to do everything we can in our power to make things better for the next generation than they were for us. Take that to heart and I think Will will do good work.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:15| David, one more serious question and then we'll move on to some fun stuff we've talked about a lot. Really good counsel and really good direction, if we all band together as skiers and riders and the industry alongside of us, what will the future look like for ski resorts 25 or 50 years from now?
David Perry: |00:45:35| You know, there's two that's a great question time. You know, if we band together and the industry has been together and skiers and snowboarders are starting to band together, we need to lock arms with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Right? There's a lot of people that just love walking through the meadows and wildflowers or hiking or birds or just being in nature. We need to lock arms with those folks as well. And there's two possible futures. Tom, you know, there's the future I like to believe is possible, which is us coming together within a short number of years, reducing our CO2 emissions and our carbon footprint to a degree where we can slow and stop and then even reverse climate change in the coming years and decades. That that's a global effort. Right. But we need to do our part. And so if we can do that and we can do it, attack that with a sense of urgency today because it is time, it's almost too late. So we really need to act together to do what we can do individually, to lobby for change and to talk to elected officials about the policies that we have as a country. If we can do that, we can turn this around and then our mountains will have long winters, we'll have abundant snowfall. We'll be able to play and go to our mountain playgrounds and join the pristine mountain environment and the benefit of clean water and clean air and less smog in our cities. And all of those things that go along with it will make us healthier as people, as individuals, and the health of our families will be less prone to disease by breathing clean air, drinking clean water and living in a clean environment.
David Perry: |00:47:15| And I think it's just better for humanity. So I like to think that that positive picture of the future is absolutely possible. If you want to go on to the dark side, if we don't band together and we don't take this seriously and urgently, this existential threat of climate change, catastrophic climate change, which we're really on the verge of. And you know what? We start to see the melting of Greenland and the polar ice caps, the rising seas, the inundation of our coastal cities. We start to see massive drought in areas that are just dry today, become deserts. We start to see impacts on agriculture. We destroy our oceans. And so the oceans are no longer a source of food and life for our planet. And we start to, you know, as our population grows beyond eight billion, we can't feed our planet because of climate change. And I understand the connections between those two. So there's a picture of the future that I don't like to believe that we're going to allow it to happen as human beings because we have the power to make that change. We have the power to clean up our environment, to reduce - get off - our dependency on fossil fuels, reduce the carbon output, reduce CO2 in our atmosphere and stabilize our climate. It's in our hands. We have the power to do that. And so I like to think that we have a bright future ahead. But part of the motivation is to avoid the really dire dark future, which is possible.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:47| Well, David, we all appreciate what you are doing, what Alterra is doing, and interestingly enough, in a very competitive landscape, all of the resorts around the country and the resort companies are doing we're going to lighten it up a little bit now in a section that I called Fresh Tracks - just to learn a little bit more about you before we close off this episode of Last Chair. David, when you are not out skiing or snowboarding, what's the favorite? What's the favorite outdoor activity for you and your family?
David Perry: |00:49:14| Yeah, mountain biking by far and away, mountain biking and hiking, alpine hiking, getting up in the alpine above tree line wherever we can. But, you know, my wife and I are big mountain bikers. We have two daughters, both in their 20s. One is a mountain landscape photographer. A professional is doing great. And our youngest daughter is still in university. And our senior year, we're outdoor enthusiasts involved in all seasons. So we get together as a family. We mountain bike in the summer, we hike in the summer, we ski in the winter. And we are passionate artists and photographers in our family as well. So the two go hand in hand.
Tom Kelly: |00:49:57| You know, I wanted to ask you about photography. I think you probably know that you and I do both share that passion for photography. How did you pick that up? And what's your ... how do you manifest that passion as a photographer?
David Perry: |00:50:11| I learned from my dad. You know, my dad was a Protestant minister in Canada, but his number one hobby was photography. And so if I wanted to hang out with my dad, I quickly learned that I would pick up photography with him, spend time with my dad, taking the pictures and then going down to the basement, to the darkroom and developing the film and making the prints, you know, under the orange light. And so I learned as a kid to hang out with my dad and go through the whole process of creating photographic images as a form of art. He was also a painter and a really accomplished watercolor artist as well. So I got in early and then with my daughters, when they were four and six years old, I bought them their first Nikon FM camera, old manual camera, and taught them about aperture and shutter speed and the ASA. or ISO today and how to take a picture. And they did it with me. They hang out with their dad and we did it as a father-daughter. And my wife along the way as well is actually a great photographer as well. And so it really passes from generation to generation with us. And lo and behold, my oldest daughter is now a professional photographer, which I didn't expect to happen, but that's the path she's chosen. And so we like outdoor photography, nature, you know, landscape, beautiful outdoor places and people enjoying those places. That's what we enjoy.
Tom Kelly: |00:51:38| You know, it's funny, I'm chuckling because in the cabinet behind me, I have an old Nikon FM sitting in there, just one I just hung on to all these years. David, the most exotic place that you've skied around the world
David Perry: |00:51:50| On my! Most exotic? Well, I've skied some pretty wild places, you know, and I live in the Banff Lake Louise area, I made a habit of climbing and skiing couloirs in summer - first descents, as they call them today. We didn't bother to catalog them. We weren't trying to bag first descent, but we put our skis on our back and we hiked with ropes, ice axes and crampons into these couloirs in the Canadian Rockies, the most famous spot that I was one of the first people that actually ski was. It's called the Three Fork Couloir, it's at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park. And it's a scene is actually on the back of the Canadian twenty-dollar bill. It's a very famous scene and it's a narrow couloir between the third and fourth peaks that I climbed and skied in my early 20s. I would say that was fairly exotic. I did not understand the risks and wasn't particularly well prepared. We were roped together. We were stepping on a rope with our crampons and getting tangled up and trying to ski with a rope and oh my gosh, we were a bunch of idiots, but we survived. Yeah. So that was, you know, climbing and skiing couloir, as in the Canadian Rockies, I guess would probably qualify as well that way.
Tom Kelly: |00:53:05| That'll definitely qualify. And it's nice to have that one checked off on the list as opposed to one that's on your bucket list yet.
David Perry: |00:53:13| Yeah, that's right. I mean, I've been fortunate enough to ski in some incredibly beautiful places. You know, I have to say the Zermatt, you know, Zermatt, around the Matterhorn, is so spectacularly beautiful that I've had wonderful experiences there with a guide. I was smart enough to hire a guide there.
Tom Kelly: |00:53:30| Smart move. Smart move. Yeah. So you have lived and worked in some amazing places as well. Whistler Blackcomb, Banff, Lake Louise, Aspen. If you were to ... but you haven't lived in Utah yet ... if you were a ski bum, where would you love to work in ski here in Utah.
David Perry: |00:53:49| Oh, wow, I love Utah. I've been traveling, skiing in Utah and mountain biking in Utah. We go to Moab, Canyonlands, the Maze and mountain biking. The issue there as we're kind of torn, I would love to live in the Moab area or even around Escalante or Boulder, Utah, because of the mountain biking, hiking in the canyon. It's not close enough to skiing, though, so I'm really torn. You know, I do love the Park City area. I really do. You know, it's such a thriving, beautiful community and a beautiful little town and great skiing. Frankly, for the skiing perspective, I'd rather be in Little or big Cottonwood Canyon if I'm brutally honest Skiing Alta-Bird. I love that. And I love to skiiing Solitude. Right? We own solitude, of course. And gosh, one of my best runs in Utah last year was a run I took with with the team there and we skied Black Forest Glades in Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude. And I had one of the best runs of the year right there in Honeycomb. And so I do love Big Cottonwood Canyon. I love Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, but I don't actually see myself living in those canyons. So I think Park City area would be a great place to live.
Tom Kelly: |00:55:10| Well, you're invited over here any time. And do you have a favorite Utah craft beer?
David Perry: |00:55:17| Oh, gosh, craft beer. I do. You know, and I actually drink it regularly when I go to Moab and wherever I can find is by Red Rock. And it's called Fröhlich or Fröhlich. I'm not sure. Yeah, Fröhlich Pilsner, that's one of my favorite beers of all time. Comes in a quart bottle which I really like slightly larger bottle, nice yellow label. That's delicious beer. So that Red Rock Fröhlich Pilsner is my favorite, not just in Utah, anywhere I can get it.
Tom Kelly: |00:55:47| Yeah, they do some great beers at Red Rock. And then finally, the last question that I posed to all of our last guests groomers, moguls, glades or powder.
David Perry: |00:56:00| Well, once upon a time it was moguls when I was younger and I think knees have a certain number of moguls in them. It's powder,
Tom Kelly: |00:56:09| By the way. You would have been the first person to ever pick moguls.
David Perry: |00:56:14| Oh, my gosh. Well, I was in the moguls all the time when I was younger and I still love it and I love doing high speed turns on soft bumps. That's one of my favorite things to do. But yeah, you know, I go to powder snow or heli ski pitch that I can ski. That's that's a dream.
Tom Kelly: |00:56:31| Well, David Perry, thank you for all that you're doing and especially for sharing some time here on Last Chair to help educate us a little bit and hopefully motivate us to be advocates like you. Thank you so much.
David Perry: |00:56:41| I'm deeply appreciative of you having me on the show, Tom, and are asking these really important questions about climate and how it impacts the skiers and riders and mountain enthusiasts. This is such an important topic. I'm really, really honored that you asked me on the show. Thank you.
Tom Kelly: |00:56:57| Thank you. David Perry, thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
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