Vail Wants To Cut Its Carbon Emissions To Zero — But It’s A Long Road

Grace Hood/CPR News
A skier lines up to have his pass scanned at Keystone, part of Vail Resorts. Last season, the multinational company reported spending $2.4 million on energy efficient equipment, including snow guns.

Vail Resorts committed to bringing the net amount of warming pollution it creates to zero by 2030. But during the 2019 financial year, it took a small step backwards. It purchased new resorts in Washington and the Northeast, which bumped up its carbon footprint.

Other than those resorts, Vail Resorts' overall emissions dropped slightly, by 0.6 percent compared to the year before. The company reported spending millions on everything from energy efficient snow guns to wind power last ski season. In its recent sustainability progress report, it reported progress toward its goals of net zero carbon by 2030, zero waste to landfills and limited impact to forests.

“The great outdoors is our business, and we have a special obligation to protect it,” Robert Katz, Vail Resorts’ chairman and CEO, wrote in the report.

Colorado’s ski resorts stand to lose a lot as the climate warms. According to one estimate by the nonprofit Protect Our Winters, a low-snow year can cost the winter sports industry up to $1 billion. The 2017-2018 ski year was tough going for many resorts. But last season it rebounded, marking 59 million skier visits across the state, the fourth busiest season since 1978.

As the climate warms, the snowpack is projected to decline and the winter season’s length is expected to shorten.