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Ski Areas: Environmental Management
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons to Change
Environmental Management
Preventing Pollution
Where To Go for Help
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Environmental Management System Implementation Guide
Particularly useful for ski areas considering an EMS.

Greening Your Ski Area
The handbook provides environmental strategies for on-mountain operations, as well as for management...

A vast majority of ski areas are voluntarily taking more stringent measures to green their operations. These range from employee community service projects to formal documents, such as an Environmental Management System or EMS. An EMS is a document that drives a ski area's long term vision for sustainability, as well as day to day operations and decisions.

A ski area's EMS should involve:

1. Environmental Policies and Programs
2. Environmental Performance Measurement and Reporting
3. Regulatory Compliance
4. Customer, Employee, and Community Programs

The table below summarizes what managers should consider when incorporating these four aspects of environmental management into their operation.

Management Area


Environmental programs and policies More ski areas are developing environmental policies and programs to proactively address environmental issues from a strategic perspective. These programs foster the implementation of environmental projects and programs within the context of a larger environmental management philosophy and system. Development and implementation of such programs at ski areas involves first and foremost upper management commitment and support. With upper management support, ski areas developing environmental policies and programs should: 1) understand environmental management terminology and philosophy, 2) use external sources of guidance for strengthening existing environmental programs, and 3) draw from examples of environmental management policies from other ski areas.
Environmental performance measurement and reporting Many federal, state, and local environmental agencies administer programs that require some type of environmental reporting. Traditionally, such reports are narrowly defined to meet the subject of a particular environmental regulation, such as toxics release reporting or hazardous waste generation. However, many proactive environmental programs have holistic environmental reporting components. In addition, public demand for corporate communication about complex environmental impacts coupled with increasingly widespread awareness of environmental management system (EMS) concepts have given rise to independent, voluntary standards for businesses to report on environmental performance and sustainability efforts. Rising expectations for environmental management accountability from employees, customers, and stakeholder organizations, plus advances in information technology have led numerous corporations to voluntarily publish environmental reports.
Regulatory compliance Ski areas are obligated to comply with numerous environmental regulations. Many regulations pertain to ski area land use and management on or near public lands; therefore, knowledge of and compliance with land use regulations are important. Five categories of environmental regulation relate to day-to-day on-mountain operations: (1) solid and hazardous waste management, (2) pesticide use, (3) underground and above ground storage tanks, (4) spill reporting and response, and (5) other environmental regulations (air emission control, water quality, and emergency planning and community right-to-know).
Customer, employee, and community programs In practice, many environmental strategies occur behind the scenes. With some exceptions, most pollution prevention and energy efficiency practices are not obvious to ski area customers and many "rank and file" ski area employees. Although behind-the-scene changes may anchor a ski area's environmental improvement efforts, programs focused on customers, employees, and community are essential to a comprehensive ski area environmental management system.

On-mountain operations at ski areas which require environmental considerations include:

1. Purchasing
2. Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance
3. Lift Operations
4. Food and Beverage Service
5. Building Maintenance

6. Snowmaking
7. Lodging
8. Grounds Maintenance
9. Building Design and Construction




Operations and Pollution Prevention (P2) opportunities for each of the operational areas listed above are discussed in later sections of this topic hub. Below is a table showing options available to ski areas that can diversify the recreational opportunities they offer. This diversity is aimed to increase profits by increasing the total number of annual visitor days. If the ski area's management opts for such diversification, additional environmentally based decisions will have to be made.

Many ski areas offer a variety of year round activities to add seasonal components to their operations. These include:



  • Skiing/Snowboarding
  • Terrain parks
  • Snow tubing
  • XC skiing/snowshoeing
  • Sno-cat tours
  • Golfing
  • Hiking
  • Mountain biking
  • Dining
  • Wildlife viewing


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Ski Areas Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Center
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 12/2/2013