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Ski area wins sustainability honor

Mt. Ashland is the world’s first ski area to be certified for sustainability management practices by STOKE, which analyzes snow and surf tourism operators for their environmental and community efforts.

According to a press release from STOKE (Sustainable Tourism Operator’s Kit for Evaluation), Mt. Ashland Ski Area was evaluated against the STOKE Snow standard of 153 criteria by an independent evaluator, Pete Blanchard. The ski area achieved an overall compliance score of 77 percent across all four categories of sustainability performance, above the minimum threshold of 70 percent for certification.

Blanchard is director of finance and consulting for the Mountain Rider’s Alliance, a California-based organization that works to improve environmental and sustainability efforts at ski areas.

Hiram Towle, general manager of Mt. Ashland, said working with the STOKE program helped give the ski area direction.

“STOKE’s initial visit was during one of our lowest snow years on record," Towle said in the release, "but their optimism, tools and templates, and unique perspective on sustainable ski area management empowered our team to embrace sustainability and create a plan for the future."

Mt. Ashland was the first adopter of the STOKE snow program when it was benchmarked by STOKE and provided with a Roadmap to Sustainability Report in March 2015. One of the major outcomes of its Roadmap Report was a $65,552 grant and nearly $27,000 in incentives for an 85-panel rooftop solar system that was installed in July 2016.

The report said the solar system saved 18.2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions for the 2016-17 winter season.

Mt. Ashland also increased participation in two alternative transportation initiatives in the past season. The Ski Hopper shuttle bus was offered free, which increased ridership from 250 to 1,560 passengers and resulted in a net reduction of 21.4 tons of CO² emissions compared to the previous year. Carload Mondays, which allows up to eight passengers to split the cost of a lift ticket, had 272 participants, which saved 6.65 tons of CO² emissions over the winter.

Mt. Ashland community programs highlighted in the report include an affordable learn-to-ski program called My Turn in which graduates earn free lift tickets, its After School Youth Program that has taught 30,000 local elementary and middle school students how to ski and snowboard since the program began 20 years ago, its annual Ski Against Hunger Food Drive, its Women of Winter program in partnership with SheJumps and the Winter Wellness Day, which taught 120 local underprivileged youth how to ski.

According to the release, STOKE Certified is the world’s first sustainability certification program for surf and ski tourism operators. STOKE says it "verifies the legitimacy of sustainability claims made by operators and provides transparency for the public through its certification programs."

For more information, go to www.stokecertified.com.