At Stevens Pass, we take Sustainability to mean operating in a way that allows us to continue our business into the future without compromising the ecological health of our surroundings. Some programs addressing that principle include:
Responsible Management of the Alpine Landscape – Careful stewardship during winter and summer operations, such as our area-wide "spill plan" and special clean-up sled to deal with any on-mountain fuel spills. Our lift cables are all lubricated with castor oil, a natural alternative made from non-petroleum vegetable sources.
Slope Clean-Ups – Starting back in the summer of 2010 we’ve been partnering with the National Forest Foundation to run a Friends of the Forest slope clean-up day. Up to 150 volunteers and dozens of Stevens Pass staff generally collect about 10 cubic yards of garbage and 15 cubic yards of recycling from just the focus runs for the season; it will take many years to address the backlog.
Vegetation Management Program – A primary goal is to maintain the maximum forest cover that is compatible with safe and varied skiing and snowboarding: operating plans and training documents emphasize the protection of tree groves from possible mechanical damage by snow grooming equipment and other operating machinery. If ground-disturbing re-contouring occurs on ski trails in the summer, Stevens Pass crews immediately mulch and seed with U.S. Forest Service-approved grass seed mixes to protect against short-term soil erosion; over several years native plants will re-enter these sites. Transplanting of native plants is also implemented on specific areas of the mountain. The result of all these efforts is an esthetically appealing and ecologically correct series of managed plant communities.
Preference for Environmentally-Aware Vendors – We are expanding our procurement process to assess the corporate philosophies of our suppliers. To the extent possible, we will do business with “greener” vendors who demonstrate an environmental awareness, and ideally those who are located in the region, offer take-back programs, use recycled content, minimize hazmat ingredients, and follow various other green practices.
Extensive Transit Fleet for Employees – Launched over a decade ago and operating on both sides of the Cascades year-round, our subsidized contract fleet delivers over 2 million employee passenger miles per season, keeping thousands of cars off the road every week, and preventing many tons of carbon emissions per day. Stevens Pass vans operate in the summer months, and also collect overnight crews in the winter.
Cleaner-burning Vehicles – All Stevens Pass diesel vehicles burn commercially-available ultra low-sulfur diesel. Starting in 2008, we began to convert our snowmobile fleet to much less-polluting 4-stroke engines. Snowmobile usage is also limited to hours when we’re not open to the public in order to save money and fuel, and reduce hazards. Like many resorts, we use a number of 4WD vehicles for fleet operations, maintenance, and intermittent guest/staff transport. During the 2008-09 season, we ran a test substituting 50% of our traditional gasoline-powered fleet with leased heavy-duty hybrid SUV models; since that time we have experimented with other fleet options, such as Subaru passenger cars. As we replace heavy equipment, it’s increasingly compliant with modern air quality standards: e.g. all of our huge snow-removal front-loaders already meet EPA’s proposed Tier III standards.
Electric Vehicles – Stevens Pass was the first resort in the West (possibly the entire USA) to host public Electric Vehicle chargers. Since June 2011, these free stations have served satisfied users every month of the year, and now total close to 1,000 sessions. Learn more here. At the resort, we have also experimented with various forms of electric utility vehicle, such as the Polaris Ranger EV, and have supported research into electric-drive snowmobiles, but have yet to find the perfect solution.
Fuel Management – Following the discovery of underground leaks from decades-old fuel tanks at our Vehicle Shop, as well as contamination from an abandoned gas station along US Hwy 2 (never owned by the resort), Stevens Pass opted to clean the slate in the summer of 2011. Contractors excavated hundreds of tons of fill from two parking lots, and also installed a new state-of-the-art, above-ground fuel station for use by company vehicles, with accompanying tracking software. Several new spill containment devices and modern operating protocols will ensure that no fuel goes astray in the future.
No-Idling Campaign - Beginning in 2009, we launched a No-Idling Campaign designed to improve air quality, reduce fuel waste, and shrink our climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Phase I involved employee education and training, and baseline data collection; Phase II included contact and enforcement with bus drivers, delivery drivers, and other service personnel; Phase III includes outreach to the general public, and is the most challenging component to implement.
Park & Ride and Transit Alternatives – Back in 2000, we began a scheduled Park & Ride service (now contracted out) based in the foothills town of Sultan in order to lessen single-occupant vehicle usage of the upper Stevens Pass Highway, reduce parking demand at the resort, and provide a lower-impact transportation option. We have also experimented with direct bus shuttle service from downtown Seattle. On our website we promote private ski bus options and also direct readers to RideShare Online, a free WSDOT carpooling site, and TheSkiLift.org, which targets skiers and riders heading to the mountains. We also offer half-price preferred parking for carpools of three or more passengers. Finally, we are partnering with the town of Leavenworth to promote the exciting availability of daily Amtrak train service to Leavenworth by offering connector bus transit up to Stevens Pass from town.
Food Service Sustainability – We realize that food operations can have a significant environmental footprint and seek to minimize impacts from transportation and production when possible. At Stevens Pass, we serve organic, certified fair-trade espresso resort-wide, with an option for organic milk. We offer 100% natural, hormone-free beef in selected restaurants, and make every effort to source locally from suppliers within 100 miles – examples of this include some of our most popular and high-volume food items (such as chili, soups, sauces, and fries). Many of our remaining menu items come from suppliers within Washington or the Pacific Northwest. Almost all of our beer is sourced from Washington and Oregon breweries, and one brew (Fishtale IPA) is organic. Periodically, we assess our menu’s overall sustainability, which includes searching for additional suppliers closer to the resort.
Green Cleaning – To the extent possible, we use low-toxicity products from Ecolab, GreenSeal-certified cleaners, and other less hazardous items to clean facilities and restrooms at the resort. Our onsite laundry allows us to wash kitchen uniforms and cleaning rags without creating the usual transportation impacts.