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: