By Rachael Hopwood
The story of Whistler is all about a place, its people and a special Olympic dream that came true in 2010. Located 120 kilometres north of Vancouver, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty and one of the world’s top ski destinations. Climate change has been a key concern for the mountain town for many years, and with good reason. Whistler’s tourism-based economy relies on stable snow and weather patterns each year, to attract the thousands of skiers and snowboarders to its slopes.
With the new winter season upon us, it seems a green skiing revolution is underway. In an attempt to cut our carbon footprint, many of us are seeking out eco-friendly travel options this winter. While many resorts across the globe are making changes, here’s why the Canadian resort of Whistler should be high on the list of any carbon-savvy traveller.
Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint
Whistler Blackcomb’s owner (since 2016), Vail Resorts, is something of a giant in the skiing world. The company’s sustainability initiative, an Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint, is split into three parts to eliminate carbon emissions, waste production and environmental impact by 2030. Changes like the use of low-energy snowmaking equipment and eco-friendly building design, tree planting, the sourcing of electricity from renewable energy sources and many offsetting programs will be in action this winter.
While promises are easy to make, it seems Vail Resorts are putting their money where their mouth is. They invested US$2.4 million into energy upgrades, including more LED lighting and 168 high-efficiency, automated snow guns. This move alone led to a decrease of 37,511 million metric British thermal units and put it a quarter of the way towards its 2030 energy-efficiency goal.
The Fitzsimmons Micro-Hydro Project
In efforts to make Whistler’s energy consumption neutral, the Fitzsimmons micro-hydro renewable energy project has built a hydro plant that produces enough electricity to match the total annual energy consumption of the resort’s winter and summer operations. To put that into perspective, that’s enough to power 17 restaurants, 269 snow cannons, and 37 ski lifts!
The Local Community & Small Businesses
The local community and small businesses play a huge role when it comes to Whistler’s carbon credentials. After all, their livelihood relies on maintaining this beautiful corner of Canada.
From May to October, the Resort Municipality of Whistler challenged residents to “Maytober.” Residents were asked to switch out one private passenger vehicle trip each week for a lower-carbon transportation alternative such as walking, transit or biking. The authority reported that the community could have reduced their climate footprint by as much as 600 tonnes as a result.
Forged Axe Throwing, an entertainment business in neighbouring Function Junction, repurposes its wooden targets by offering them as firewood. Wood is regarded as a safe fuel and a greater alternative to oil and other fossil fuels. It also provides locals with an excuse to test their aim at one of the hour-long axe throwing drop-in sessions.
There are several Whistler adventures for those seeking to limit their carbon footprint. A Whistler sleigh ride uses good old fashioned horsepower and offers a great way to see the sights without polluting backcountry habitats.
Tubing is another planet-friendly pastime to add to the list. Easily accessible from the Village, the Whistler Blackcomb Tube Park is the best place to slide your way over 1,000 feet of ice lanes.
With more and more people cutting meat out of their diet for reasons of sustainability, Meat-free Mondays at the Aura Restaurant will be music to the ears of vegetarians and vegans.
When it comes to eco-friendly accommodation, the Nita Lake Lodge is hard to ignore. Their stunning lakeside location is perhaps a reminder of what our efforts are designed to protect. Nita Lake has several initiatives including growing its herbs and vegetables on an organic rooftop garden, using energy-efficient lighting, a policy of using chemical-free cleaning products, a comprehensive recycling program, and energy-efficient boilers.
So there you have it, just a few of the efforts being taken by Whistler to preserve this beautiful part of Canada for years to come. By taking collective action, our thirst for adventure doesn’t have to threaten the environment.