Powder 8s: Ways to Be Green When You Ski

Easy steps to help make being green the new black

The bus is bound for glory. PHOTO: Adam Clark
The bus is bound for glory. PHOTO: Adam Clark

WORDS: Kate Wilke

Whether we’re on the chairlift, skiing through trees, or standing on top of a high peak, we all pause at some point to soak in the majesty of the mountains. You can’t ski without allowing a deep respect for nature to become a part of you. Our sport is impossible unless the mountains are healthy. Unfortunately, as skiers we leave a big carbon footprint every time we head for the hills. Skiing green doesn’t mean you have to bypass the lift and climb to the top of every run, but it does mean you’ll have to adjust some of your ski habits. These eight rules can help you get started:

1. Your plane ticket causes the most damage. Airplanes are one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide. About six times the amount of carbon is released when traveling by plane versus a bus. So buckle up and allow for a few more hours of travel time.

2. And speaking of travel, use mass transportation or carpool when you arrive at your destination. Most ski resorts have efficient and affordable bus service that takes you directly to the base of the lifts, meaning you can skip the mile-long ski-boot shuffle from the parking lot in Siberia. If you want to get to know locals, throw out the thumb curbside and see where it leads you.

3. We know skiing is all about shredding in style. Thankfully, many ski brands work with sustainable materials in their process. Gear up without the guilt by researching before you buy pants, jackets, gloves, and base layers.

4. The same goes for boots, helmets, skis, and poles. More and more brands are catching on and providing green gear, but it’s up to you to support these healthier processes.

5. By now, you surely have your favorite ski resorts, but consider places that make environmental responsibility a priority. Berkshire East, in Massachusetts, and Mount Abram, in Maine, power their ski areas with on-site renewable resources; Aspen Highlands buys all of its food from local vendors; Jackson Hole recycles all used motor oil, batteries, antifreeze, and snowmelt; and Whistler offsets its energy use with hydropower.

6. Common waxes have fluorine and parafin, which are chemicals that end up in the water system and eventually damage plants and animals. Who knew something so small could have such a negative impact? Look for an eco-friendly wax that is natural and biodegradable. Greenwax, Purl waxes, Beaverwax products, and Ethica Enviro-Wax are few mother nature-friendly brands.

7. OK, here’s the obvious one…don’t litter! Cigarette butts take 10-12 years to decompose, while fabric will take 30-40 years, and aluminum cans 200-250 years. That’s really, really old beer.

8. Bring your own lunch to the mountain if possible. Restaurants create an enormous amount of waste, especially when it comes to food and water. Besides, you’ll save money, and you’ll be needing that to purchase more environmentally friendly products.