Sustainable Ski Resort Spotlight: Stevens Pass, Washington

Stevens Pass Ski Resort in cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, 78 miles east of Seat­tle, gets approx­i­mate­ly 450 inch­es of snow a year, cov­er­ing its 1,125 acres of vary­ing ter­rain, and pro­vides for a long sea­son (Novem­ber — April) of win­ter fun and pow­der seek­ing. But besides a good amount of snow, and traf­fic on the week­ends, Stevens Pass also receives due atten­tion to their pro­gres­sive envi­ron­men­tal prac­tices. Stevens Ski Resort believes that envi­ron­men­tal respon­si­bil­i­ty is the high­est lev­el of guest ser­vice, and this atten­tion to the land we play in not only gets noticed by the ski­ing com­mu­ni­ty that packs its chair­lifts every day, but also by nation­al pro­grams like the Ski Area Cit­i­zens Coali­tion (SACC).

In 2012, Stevens Pass became the first Wash­ing­ton resort to win the pres­ti­gious Gold­en Eagle Award pre­sent­ed by the SACC for envi­ron­men­tal excel­lence. The cri­te­ria can be fur­ther exam­ined through the links below, but the SACC annu­al­ly grades west­ern ski resorts based on four gen­er­al cat­e­gories; habi­tat pro­tec­tion, pro­tect­ing water­sheds, address­ing glob­al cli­mate change, and envi­ron­men­tal practices/policies; with each hav­ing their own subcategories.

In recent years, Stevens Pass man­aged to end up at the num­ber one spot and they don’t plan on stop­ping there. To find out just how a ski resort can be sus­tain­able, I con­tact­ed the Stevens Pass moun­tain mete­o­rol­o­gist and envi­ron­men­tal answer-man John Meri­wether, and con­sult­ed the offi­cial SACC report, to under­stand how ski­ing can be enjoyed for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Stevens Pass has a five dis­ci­pline ide­ol­o­gy when it comes to envi­ron­men­tal aware­ness. The five dis­ci­plines, plus real world exam­ples of each at work are as follows:

Stew­ard­ship for Stevens Pass means car­ing for the land and encour­ag­ing sen­si­tive and inno­vate inter­ac­tions with the envi­ron­ment to pro­mote har­mo­ny among the wildlife, plants, soil, water sys­tems and cli­mate. The resort works close­ly with the local For­est Dis­trict to ensure they remain with­in their own habi­tat. This means strict atten­tion to water-runoff, sed­i­ment build-up, and ero­sion factors.

Stevens Pass runs off 100% wind pow­er. Using ener­gy cred­its and car­bon off­sets, Steven’s Pass man­ages to keep the lodge’s lights on with the twirl of a wind­mill blade, effec­tive­ly pre­vent­ing the emis­sion of 16,182 tons of car­bon diox­ide a year, approx­i­mate­ly equal to tak­ing off 2,878 cars off the road.

Respon­si­bil­i­ty & Integri­ty
One of the core mes­sages at the resort is know­ing that the eas­i­est or the cheap­est way is often not the most respon­si­ble. As John Meri­wether said, “all have to do with NOT green-wash­ing, and doing what we say we are doing for the envi­ron­ment at a high lev­el. As well as, direct­ing annu­al cap­i­tal improve­ment for the envi­ron­men­tal infra­struc­ture.” Through either 3rd-par­ty green­house gas/environmental impact audits, or the envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion and phil­an­thropic efforts in the com­mu­ni­ty, it is clear that Stevens Pass stands behind the mes­sage they try to deliver.

Devel­op­ing cre­ative solu­tions is one way Stevens Pass keeps up with the com­pe­ti­tion. Or as John puts it, “Inno­va­tion is keep­ing up with tech­nol­o­gy and the best prac­tices with­in the sus­tain­abil­i­ty indus­try, which is fast mov­ing.” And through the fast mov­ing tech­nol­o­gy, Stevens Pass has man­aged to stay in front of the pack.

They were the first to put elec­tric vehi­cle charg­ing sta­tions on a moun­tain pass, they con­tin­ue to expand their renew­able ener­gy capa­bil­i­ties by installing solar pan­els on the lift shacks, and they con­tin­ue to grow their pub­lic trans­port options and incentives. 

If you’re ever in the area, catch a bus to check out Stevens Pass. And even if you don’t notice the ener­gy effi­cient light bulbs, or won­der what’s pow­er­ing your chair­lift, it does­n’t mat­ter. Chances are you’ll remem­ber the some of the world’s deep­est snows. Hope­ful­ly you’ll fall asleep that night bone-tired from the snow day, and con­tent with the fact that those expe­ri­ences are being built to enjoy for gen­er­a­tions to come.

To learn more about the Ski Areas Cit­i­zens Coali­tion and their grad­ing process for the Gold­en Eagle Award, plus oth­er infor­ma­tion about Stevens Pass, check out the links below:

Ski Areas Cit­i­zens Coali­tion
SACC “How are Ski Areas Grad­ed?“
SACC- Stevens Pass Score Card
Stevens Pass Ski Resort
Stevens Pass Ski Resort — Press Release, Gold­en Eagle Award