The death of “green washing” continues.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort, a Lake Tahoe gem just outside Incline Village, Nevada, has become the second ski area in the nation to be certified for its efforts to develop best practices for sustainability, environmental responsibility, customer loyalty, and staff retention.
The Sustainable Tourism Operator's Kit for Evaluation, or STOKE, is the world's first sustainability certification body with standards built specifically for surf and ski tourism operators. The organization was founded as an antidote to “green washing,” and strives to assist resorts in developing systematic approaches that not only boost environmental and community standards, but to do so in the longterm interest that’s better for business. While there are other sustainability certification programs around the world—such as LEED and B Corporation—STOKE is the first tailored specifically to mountain communities and ski resorts.
Built on the United Nation's definition of sustainability—which is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”—STOKE dives into every part of a ski area's operations, from where they get their water for snowmaking to how they treat their employees to how they create signage and engagement for youth.
Diamond Peak follows Mount Ashland, Oregon, as the first two ski areas to be STOKE certified. One of the goals behind STOKE is to help smaller ski areas compete with big conglomerates by providing customers with a transparent attempt at being environmentally and community conscious.
"I've been fortunate to call this mountain home for my entire career," said Diamond Peak General Manager Mike Bandelin, who started out as a parking lot attendant at the ski area back in 1984. "A lot has changed over the years, but Diamond Peak still has that friendly, local feel and remains dedicated to the community and our environment. STOKE provided us a roadmap to make short- and long-term strategic changes for achieving a more sustainable future. I'm extremely proud of everyone here for making this achievement possible."
During the 2017-18 ski season, Diamond Peak was evaluated against the 110 criteria in the STOKE Snow standard by an independent evaluator, Pete Blanchard. The ski area achieved an overall compliance score of 78 percent across all four categories of sustainability performance.
Part of the cerfitication program is allowing skiers and snowboarders to interact and be informed about protecting the area’s unique natural features. New for the 2017-18 season, skiers and snowboarders could take a guided interpretive tour of the mountain's cultural heritage, ecosystem functions of the Tahoe Basin, and the ski resort's sustainability initiatives.
The ski area also created a series of witty signage on trash cans, lift towers, and chair-backs designed to inspire skiers and riders to partake in everyday efforts that Keep Tahoe Blue. To drive this home, Diamond Peak partnered with the creative artists behind the Take Care Tahoe campaign, a group of organizations working together to help inspire a sense of community and environmental responsibility in the Tahoe region.
In the spirit of educating the next generation of mountain stewards, the ski resort commissioned local Reno-based illustrator, Kate O'Hara, to create a children's coloring book featuring flora and fauna native to the resort for the Children's Ski Center. In the revived Sierra Scouts lesson program, instructors teach school group ski classes about topics that correspond to locations on the mountain with interpretive signs about the environment. Upon completion of the program, students are awarded the Sierra Snow Ranger badge.
Diamond Peak has averaged 36 percent waste diversion via recycling since they started recording statistics during the 2014-15 winter season, including reusing old trail map signage in new terrain park features. This practice has avoided 446 metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2015–2017, the equivalent of removing 95 cars from the road for one year.
In line with this year's Earth Day theme to end plastic pollution, the ski resort has been striving to reduce the sale and use of single-use plastic water bottles. To aid this effort, they have installed more hydration stations, campaigned for Drink Tahoe Tap, and began selling custom reusable water pouches, which has led to a 34 percent reduction in water bottle sales (2,409 fewer bottles compared to the 2016-17 season).
Lastly, Diamond Peak has invested millions into watershed restoration efforts and the addition of 28 high-efficiency HKD snow guns and towers over the last three years. Meanwhile, the use of PistenBully’s SnowSat snow-depth monitoring technology maximizes the efficient use of natural snow and man-made snow to reduce the need for snowmaking in patchy areas.