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Vail is the First Mountain Resort recognized as a “Sustainable Destination”

Vail's certification—the first in the world—sets an impressive standard for other mountain communities to follow. Wikipedia Photo.

Vail is now known for much more than world-class skiing: on July 20th it was officially certified as a Sustainable Mountain Resort Destination by Sustainable Travel International. Summit Daily reports that this honor not only makes Vail the first mountain resort in the United States to receive such recognition, but also the first in the world.

RELATED: Colorado's Wolf Creek is First Ski Resort to be Powered by 100% Renewable Energy

The certification naturally builds on Vail’s already long history of sustainability and environmental activism, which was clearly evident even back in the ‘60s, when the town made conservation a priority by adding a provision in their charter to protect open spaces. Then, in the ‘70s Vail created the Vail Nature Center and Preserve, and later established the 1% Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) in the ‘80s to improve both parks and open spaces for recreational purposes. Looking ahead, Vail hopes to continue their momentum by pledging to have a net zero operating carbon footprint by 2030.

Vail recognizes how dependent their economy is on tourism, and according to Sustainable Travel, each year they host about 2.8 million guests. With winter climate changing at an unprecedented rate, Vail wants to ensure that they’re doing their part to protect both the local economy and environment. The sustainable certification was only achievable through the collective hard work from the resort, the town of Vail, Walking Mountains Science Center, the U.S. Forest Service, and other committed public and private entities. The collaboration has taken considerable effort over the years to achieve the success they are seeing today.

Back in 2015, before hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Vail’s goal was to be the first resort to receive a Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) body standard. The GSTC is a global accreditation body comprised of a variety of entities: NGO’s, national and provincial governments, travel companies, hotels, and individuals who are passionate about sustainable tourism. To receive a certification starts with an evaluation based on their four core pillars: sustainable management, socioeconomic impacts, cultural impacts, and environmental impacts. To comply with these pillars and receive an accreditation means that Vail has adhered to the GSTC’s highest standards of sustainability since setting out for this goal three years ago.

Vail’s certification was brought to fruition when the city provided local businesses with a sustainability training certification program called Actively Green. According to Walking Mountain Science Center, since enacting the program, over 217 businesses have received training and 57 went even a step further and became certified.

In addition to Actively Green, the town of Vail has been recognized through measures like their disposable bag ban and water quality initiatives. Sustainability efforts like these were all weighed considerably by Sustainable Travel International when determining Vail’s certification as a Sustainable Mountain Resort Destination.

When accounting for visitation and customers, Vail’s new certification will fare them well: Mandala Research found that 60 percent of U.S. travelers care about sustainability—and this concern for the environment often dictates the places they choose to travel to. Now that Vail is leading the way in sustainable initiatives for larger mountain communities across the world, hopefully other major resorts will be inspired to embrace more environmentally-conscious practices.

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