Steamboat Springs Ski area officials, including those from Steamboat, are telling the public that they are serious about an environmental charter just adopted by their national association, fending off skepticism that the charter might be a marketing ploy or an attempt to "green wash" the industry.
The National Ski Area Association adopted the charter Wednesday during its conference in Washington, D.C., NSAA Director of Public Policy Geraldine Hughes said.
The charter, which presumably will hold participating ski areas to a sweeping set of voluntary principles for protecting alpine environments in which they operate, was prompted by the results of a 1994 poll, she said.
"In the poll, skiers and snowboarders claimed themselves to be environmentalists, and the majority of them also said they'd like to see NSAA embracing a philosophy and mission as environmental stewards," she said.
If it were indeed merely a marketing tool, NSAA would never have invested an entire year in the drafting of the charter, nor, Hughes said, would NSAA have invited key stakeholders to participate in the drafting.
Among 13 organizations that support the charter and have committed themselves to working with the ski industry are the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Conservation Law Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
NSAA representatives agreed that the endorsement of these organizations should clearly strengthen the integrity of the charter in the public eye.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., however, should have no problem convincing the public, the ski industry, or the partnering organizations that its commitment to environmental stewardship is a legitimate one, Hughes said.
Ski corp., which endorsed the charter, has been practicing its principles for years, ski corp. President Chris Diamond said.
"We were awarded the Silver Eagle Award in 1998," Diamond said. The award is NSAA's most prestigious environmental award.
"Everything in the charter is consistent with plans we've already implemented," he added. "The difference will be that annual reports of our progress and implementation will provide us with a good audit checklist. We were very involved in the creation of this charter. We were definitely on the inside."
In fact, ski corp.'s Joe Foreman personally worked on the charter, Hughes said.
The charter outlines "best practices" for ski areas to adopt and implement in an effort to support environmental sustainability. Among the practices are guidelines involving ski area planning and design, operations, and education and outreach programs. The guidelines cover community involvement, conservation of natural resources and wildlife, and the increasing of environmental awareness amongst recreationists.
Skiers and snowboarders will be able to recognize ski areas that endorse the environmental charter by the area's displayed "Sustainable Slopes" endorsement logo.
To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org