In a town built on recreational tourism, protecting our terrain is big business, which means big businesses like Vail Resorts, owner, and operator of Park City Mountain, has made climate protection, a big part of their business.
We sat down with Emily McDonald, Communications Manager for PCMR, to find out more about Vail’s approach to sustainability.
What can you tell me about Vail’s EpicPromise? How and when did this movement begin, and what are the goals?
EpicPromise is our commitment to preserving the environment, addressing the most urgent needs of mountain communities, and supporting employees through emergency relief grants and educational scholarships.
When Vail Resorts announced Commitment to Zero in 2017 as part of EpicPromise, we took the approach that if you’re not setting goals so big you’re not initially sure how you’ll reach them, they’re not big enough to solve climate change. Our commitment to achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030 through zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat, creates the opportunity for one mountain resort operator to have a big impact on preserving the environment.
Through our EpicPromise Progress Report, we share annual updates on learnings and progress with team members, guests, and communities.
With all of Vail’s efforts and emphasis on climate protection what successes have you seen so far?
We’re well on our way to achieving our Commitment to Zero goal! We’ve reached 85% renewable electricity across our North American resorts; the large-scale wind farm (Plum Creek) Vail Resorts enabled has been producing clean electricity since June 2020. Additionally, we achieved our sub-goal of a 50% waste diversion rate in March 2020, in large part thanks to our employees who work to ensure our materials are sorted properly.
At Park City specifically, we’re proud to be a partner in a new solar farm outside Salt Lake City (Elektron Solar), which will provide renewable energy for 100 percent of Park City Mountain’s electric usage by 2023.
Can you talk to Vail’s investment in conserving energy? What programs are in place to become energy independent? What steps is Vail taking to minimize emissions?
When we announced Commitment to Zero, Vail Resorts also pledged $25 million to achieve 15% energy efficiency savings in three key areas—snowmaking, buildings, and lifts. Energy efficiency is a key strategy in reducing the emissions associated with our operations and that comes to life in various ways across our resorts.
At Park City Mountain we’ve recently focused on the energy use associated with lifts. Chairlift stations require heaters to keep equipment at a functional temperature, which
need to be properly monitored and controlled. In 2020, we installed heater controls on all 36 of
our lifts, which saves over 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.
Your website indicates that PCMR has recycled more than 672,000lbs of steel, cardboard, and co-mingled materials. What has made PCMR such a success?
Park City Mountain collects over 95% of all food scraps and other organic material at all food and beverage outlets, banquets, and weddings. This material is then hauled to Wasatch Resources Recovery’s anaerobic digester in Salt Lake City. The digester turns the food scraps into biogas and bio-based fertilizer.
Currently, Park City Mountain also recycles glass, plastic bottles, paper, used fryer oil, cardboard, scrap metal, rubber, electronic waste, snack wrappers, latex/nitrile gloves, and wooden pallets.
Additionally, employees collect everything from good quality used lumber, construction materials, pallets, furniture, trail maps, and trail signs for the new Employee ReStore, which we opened in FY 2021. The ReStore is a donation-based second-hand shop for items that would otherwise be sent to landfill, open only to employees.
Snowmaking is always a hot topic. Where do you get your water, how much is recycled, and can you elaborate on the type of machines being used?
While weather variability has always been a factor in the ski industry, our snowmaking team works in tandem with Mother Nature to create optimal snow conditions for our guests throughout the season—no matter the winter we’re having. Across Vail Resorts, as part of our focus on energy efficiency, we’re investing heavily in energy-efficient snowmaking. We’re also focused on operating the system as efficiently as possible, including only making snow during optimal temperatures.
At Park City Mountain, we utilize surface water throughout the Park City area. While some water is lost to evaporation, most snowmaking water is returned to the local watershed.
What can guests do to support Vail’s sustainability efforts?
We cannot reach zero waste to landfill without the support of our guests and waste is the biggest area where guests can support our efforts. When guests are dining at the resort, they’ll notice central waste sorting areas where trained on-mountain dining teams will sort waste to maximize diversion. And, when bringing lunch to one of our scenic decks, pack it in and pack it out (and then compost and recycle appropriately).