For decades, Snowbird has made stewardship of the land on which it operates a top priority. Its efforts in this regard include hosting annual mountain cleanups, rehabilitating areas of the mountain damaged by mining-era activities and, in partnership with Alta Ski Area, Brighton and Solitude Mountain Resort, founding and lending ongoing support to the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, an environmental education organization focused on promoting the ecological health of the Wasatch Mountains.
Over the last several years, however, as the climate crisis has deepened, Snowbird has doubled down on its commitment to the earth, enacting several new sustainability initiatives seeking to create change well beyond the resort’s carbon footprint. “Utah’s climate is changing rapidly,” said Snowbird President and General Manager Dave Fields. “We need to take deliberate action now.”
The rebuild of its onsite cogeneration power facility in 2021 is one of the most notable investments Snowbird has made to ease its impact on the planet in its 50-year history. The new facility, dubbed Snowbird Power Systems, replaces an older cogeneration facility installed at Snowbird in 1987. The system allows the resort to completely cover its power needs and then use the extra heat created from power production to warm its buildings and water rather than using additional energy sources. The result is the elimination of 62,000 dekatherms of natural gas used per year. That is equivalent to eliminating the same carbon dioxide emissions that burning over 4 million pounds of coal would produce!
An ongoing sustainability project originating at Snowbird that Hilary Arens, Snowbird's Director of Sustainability and Water Resources, is particularly proud of is one that addresses an ickier aspect of the public’s growing interest in getting outdoors: trailhead restrooms. “In 2019, it became clear that the Forest Service was struggling to properly maintain trailhead restrooms in both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon,” Arens says. “Short staffing, reduced funding and increased usage all led to the realization that these trailhead facilities were being overused and under-maintained.” As such, Snowbird decided to lend its support by identifying, hiring and paying for cleaning and maintenance of the restrooms at Little Cottonwood Canyon’s White Pine Trailhead. “The success we've seen by managing this part of the human and watershed health directly has been significant to the point that the Forest Service is now looking for other businesses to support restroom maintenance elsewhere in the Cottonwood Canyons,” Arens says.
Other programs and efforts Snowbird has undertaken in the name of sustainability include: working with Momentum Recycling to deliver most of its back-of-the-house food waste to Wasatch Resource Recovery, where it is placed in an organic digester and converted into renewable biogas; participating in research by the Colorado Climate Center on ski areas and drought; providing free UTA Ski Bus service for all employees, season pass holders and Ikon pass holders; and being actively involved in the Utah Department of Transportation’s Little Cottonwood Canyon Environmental Impact Statement by advocating for solutions that best support Snowbird’s goals of reducing carbon emissions.
Snowbird’s environmental protection goals are now augmented by Play Forever, a sustainability-and inclusivity-driven initiative spearheaded by Snowbird’s parent company, POWDR. Through the Play Forever Fund, Snowbird has donated nearly $175,000 to the following organizations: Utah Food Bank, Murray City School District, Wasatch Adaptive Sports, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, High Fives Foundation, Snowbird Sports Education Foundation, SOS Outreach, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue and the Wasatch Graffiti Busters.
The many awards and accolades Snowbird has received for its contributions to sustainability include the Gold RCI Green Award for its sustainable hospitality practices, being named one of “America’s 10 Most Eco-Friendly Ski Resorts,” by Outside Online and Arens being named the National Ski Area Association’s 2019 “Hero of Sustainability.”
For more on sustainability at Snowbird, visit snowbird.com/play-forever/community.
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