If you're like me, you've been watching for snow on the mountains since the beginning of autumn. When there's snow on the mountains, we skiers and snowboarders see visions of cutting turns through fresh, untracked powder and bombing down pillowy tree runs on blue bird days. The last thing we're thinking as we make our diesel-fueled way up the ski hill is air pollution from greenhouse gases. But that's exactly what's causing unseasonably warmer temperatures, reductions in snow-pack levels, and ultimately lower quality conditions and fewer boarding/skiing days. One thing snowboarders and skiers can agree on is that alpine sports would be a lot less enjoyable without snow. There are lots of ways to minimize your environmental impact on the slopes and keep the epic conditions coming back year after year, however. And they're easy, too!
ECO-FRIENDLY SNOW SKIING TIPS
- GREEN SNOWBOARDS: In 2007, Salomon Snowboards launched their The Green Initiative for Tomorrow (GIFT) line, with the Sick Stick freestyle snowboard as its centerpiece. The board has a wooden core completely surrounded with locally-sourced, Chinese bamboo. Manufacturers of the Sick Stick reduced 20 percent of the standard, petroleum-based materials and 25 percent of the non-renewable materials from its content. Burton also recently launched its Green Mountain Project collection, which features the EcoNico board composed of recycled steel and a Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood core. Both boards are priced comparably to standard-made models, so if you're upgrading or buying for the first time, you won't pay extra for going eco-friendly.
- GREEN SKIS: Karhu, which has manufactured backcountry and cross country skis since 1916, uses paulownia and sustainable wood for the cores of some of their telemark and alpine skis. Paulownia, like bamboo, is a fast-growing hardwood native to China that's considered more sustainable than the other types of wood commonly used for skis. Liberty Skis' Hazmat skis (for all-mountain skiing, AT, and telemark skiing), on the other hand, have a bamboo and poplar core. But in addition to being made from sustainable materials, the energy used in production is offset by wind power. Like the eco-friendly snowboards, these skis are priced comparably to standard-made versions.
- GREEN WAX: Wax contains petro-chemicals, fluorocarbons, and other toxic ingredients. This means you're inhaling toxic fumes and coating your lungs every time you heat it up and apply it to your board or skis. It also means traces of these toxins and petro-chemicals are being left on the snow and will eventually end up in waterways during the spring melt. Fortunately, there are green options like Beaverwax, which is made from environmentally-friendly additives, and Enviro Mountain Wax, which comes from North American plant and vegetable extracts.
- REDUCE, REUSE, OR RECYCLE YOUR EQUIPMENT: If you have old, but useable, equipment taking up space in your garage or basement, make a donation to the Salvation Army or Freecycle. Or do as I've done in the past and give your old gear to friends who are just starting out in the sport. The first snowboard I ever used had at least three owners prior and as it was still in good condition when I upgraded, I gave it to a friend to learn on. The point is to keep your old equipment out of a landfill for as long as possible, so either sell it, donate it, lend it out, trade it, or make it into furniture; whatever you do with it, don't throw it in the dumpster!
- GREEN CLOTHING: Big brand names like Arbor, Burton, Nitro, Patagonia , and Spyder have made it easier than ever to buy eco-friendly ski clothes. Arbor, for example, uses environmentally natural materials like bamboo to improve the performance and style of their clothing line. According to their website, bamboo-based fabrics regulate body temperature, deliver better UV protection, are more breathable, and dry more quickly than other fabrics. So buying one of their bamboo-blend ski jackets isn't just good for the environment, it's good for your performance too. Like your ski equipment, make sure your clothing gets reused or recycled after you upgrade.
- HEAD TO GREEN RESORTS: More and more ski resorts have implemented ecologically responsible initiatives. Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts , for example, has installed a wind turbine that generates a third of its electricity demands. While Jackson Hole, the popular Wyoming resort, offsets 100 percent of its energy use with wind and other alternative energy offset purchases. Colorado 's Copper Mountain , however, has cut down acres of National Forest for enlarged parking lots. The nonprofit Ski Area Citizens' Coalition (SACC) releases an annual Environmental Report Card that keeps an eye on eco-offending resorts in America and Canada . So make sure your resort has been given the environmental ‘okay' by the SACC before planning your next ski vacation.
- BUY SKIGREEN TAGS: Many resorts now offer skiers and snowboarders the option to purchase a SkiGreen Tag along with their lift ticket. Each tag represents the reduction of 150 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions by the generation of approximately 100 kWh of clean wind energy. So purchasing one of these will neutralize the amount of carbon you'll contribute on your ski trip, and simultaneously reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
- CARPOOL: Get yourself to the slopes with less environmental impact by forming or joining a carpool. It's usually pretty easy to ride with friends and/or family, but if you're on your own, try using a website like Snowpool to set up a driver profile or to find a ride. Most resorts offer mass transit or vanpool programs as well, so be sure to make inquiries.
- REDUCE AND REUSE AT THE LODGE/RESORT: I used to get embarrassed when my friend would whip out her tablecloth, dishes, and homemade food when we ate at the local ski lodge together. But looking back on it now, she was probably the most eco-friendly person on the entire mountain! Bringing your own reusable dishes and napkins isn't just easier on your wallet, it's better for the environment. Whether it's a humble ski lodge or an award-winning resort, the food is typically more expensive and less healthy than bringing your own. Pack your own lunch in Tupperware, bring your own tableware and cloth napkins, fill up your Nalgene bottle or Klean Kanteen, and effectively eliminate the waste, grease, and cost of buying your food and beverages there. My teenaged embarrassment tells me there's no environmental benefit to the tablecloth, however.