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Snow, skiing and CO2

With winter school holidays in the northern hemisphere well underway, many families are dusting off their ski gear, waxing up their equipment and getting ready to hit the slopes. For the ski and snowboarding industries, this period is essential for their survival, however they find themselves in a bit of a quandary in terms of climate change. Ski resorts are heavy emitters of greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are one of the main contributing factors to climate change and decreasing snow levels. A lack of snow would mean no skiers and no need for ski resorts. However, to safely operate a resort, and its equipment, emissions are traditionally released. It’s a kind of catch-22, so how is the ski industry managing these challenges?

The Canadian Resort Municipality of Whistler was one of the first municipalities in British Columbia to adopt a Carbon Neutral Operations plan. It also joined 179 British Columbia municipalities to sign the Climate Action Charter, pledging to be operationally carbon neutral by 2012. Two years ahead of target, Whistler has measured emissions associated with municipal operations, reduced emissions wherever possible and offset what the municipality has been unable to reduce with credits from a Gold Standard wind turbine project in Turkey.

“The impact of changing climatic conditions – especially reliable snow patterns – has the potential to substantially impact Whistler’s primary economic engine – tourism.  It was important for us to take action to have any hope that others will take on this challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says the former Mayor of Whistler, Ken Melamed. “We are proud of the comprehensive carbon reduction work that the municipality is doing, and believe that by also supporting great projects that further offset our emissions, we are helping accelerate the transition to a low carbon future.”

Offsetters, Cananda’s leading provider of carbon-management solutions, provided the consultancy services and offsets to Whistler. They were also a pivotal part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, providing extensive consultancy services and a portfolio of projects, which comprised of a 50/50 blend of British Columbia based clean technology and international Gold Standard projects. Other resorts, such as the tiny Swiss ski town of Tenna, are utilising the power of the sun and have installed unique and innovative solar powered chair lifts to help drive down their emissions.

Ski equipment is also helping to lead a sustainable revolution, myclimate, the Swiss non-profit foundation that set up the Climate Protection Partnership, helped the eco-entrepreneurial ski company, Grown Skis to develop and produce the first climate neutral skis to hit the market. These skis use local sustainable products and are produced locally in the Alps ensuring the carbon footprint is 40% lower than other comparable high quality skis. The remainder of the carbon footprint is offset with myclimate, Gold Standard, climate protection projects.

These initiatives have set the bar for future Olympic Games, other large-scale global events and the ski industry in general, demonstrating that it is possible to be carbon conscious and still run a successful business.

Check out this animated video developed by Offsetters to help individuals understand what offsets are and how they tie back to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games:

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