Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

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Vail: Nature’s Retreat

Since its incorporation in the 1960s, there’s been rapid change in the Town of Vail. The rise of tourism has led the community to consider what they can do to support the residents, the wildlife, and the creek. 

In this film, we learn about how caring the community is, and see how everyone is working together to reduce emissions and protect special species for generations to come.

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Vail Colorado Winter Landscape

Vail, Colorado: What a Sustainable Mountain Resort Destination Looks Like

With their allure of outdoor adventure and breathtaking wilderness, mountain resorts are ever-popular tourism destinations. In fact, according to UNEP, mountain areas generate about 15-20 percent of global tourism. As with any popular tourism destination, it is important to make sure that growth and development in mountain resorts happens in a sustainable manner. After all, a thriving community and healthy environment keeps everyone happy – visitors and locals, alike.   But what does it mean to be a sustainable destination? And more specifically, what does it mean to be a sustainable mountain resort destination?

Vail, Colorado Certified as the First Sustainable Mountain Resort Destination in the World

Vail, Colorado (July 20, 2018) – Today, Vail announced their certification as a sustainable mountain resort destination. Vail is the first destination in the world to be certified to the Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination standard. Additionally, Vail’s adherence to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) destination criteria makes it the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the United States certified by a GSTC-Accredited certifying body, Green Destinations. The conditional certification is the result of a multi-year partnership between the Town of Vail, Walking Mountains Science Center, Sustainable Travel International, Vail Resorts, The U.S. Forest Service, and others. It marks the culmination of 56 years of leadership by the Vail community in progressive environmental conservation policies and programs.

“Recognizing that mountain destinations are acutely threatened by climate change, waning freshwater resources, and seasonal tourism peaks, Vail has made important strides in balancing the needs of its delicate ecosystem with the wants of travelers and the local community,” said Geoff Bolan, CEO of Sustainable Travel International.

Like many mountain resort destinations, Vail’s economy is highly dependent on tourism. While the town is home to just under 5,500 local residents, it welcomes 2.8 million guests annually. Since the ski area’s founding in 1962, and the Town’s founding in 1966, Vail has focused on balancing tourism growth with local environmental and community needs.

It has taken many years to work towards the sustainable destination certification, which builds upon Vail’s long history of environmental conservation. Notable past achievements include the protection of open space being written into the Town Charter of 1966, the creation of the Vail Nature Center and Preserve in the 1970’s, and the creation of the 1% Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) in the 1980’s which improves parks and open space for recreation opportunities and further supports environmentally sustainable practices. More recent achievements include its proactive approach to restoring the water quality of Gore Creek and Vail Resort’s ambitious commitment to a zero net operating footprint by 2030.

“Over the years, the Town of Vail and community partners have taken steps to embed sustainability into the destination’s operations and throughout the entire visitor experience,” said Kristen Bertuglia, Environmental Sustainability Manager for the Town of Vail. “As a result, tourism development in Vail happens in a manner that protects nature, improves residents’ well-being, and preserves cultural heritage.”

“Alongside the tremendous leadership displayed by our community, Vail Resorts is well on our way to carry out our ambitious Commitment to Zero by 2030,” said Doug Lovell, chief operating officer for Vail Mountain. “We look forward to working alongside our fellow sustainability leaders to achieve both our company and community goals and are proud of the accomplishments that we’ve achieved so far through our partnership, including this prestigious certification.”

The Path To Becoming The First Sustainable Mountain Resort Destination In The World

In advance of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships held in Vail and Beaver Creek, the Town of Vail set out to achieve a lofty sustainability milestone: becoming the first destination in the United States to be certified to the GSTC destination standard. To achieve this, a multi-year partnership was established between the Town of Vail, Walking Mountains Science Center, and Sustainable Travel International.

The first step included launching Actively Green, a sustainability training and certification program for local businesses designed by Sustainable Travel International and run by Walking Mountains Science Center. To date, over 216 businesses have participated in the trainings and 57 businesses have been certified. In 2018, the Actively Green standard achieved “GSTC-Recognized” status.

The collaborative partnership also led to the development of the Mountain IDEAL destination standard. This standard has also achieved “GSTC-Recognized” status, meaning that the specific guidelines within the Mountain IDEAL standard used to implement sustainability at the destination are considered equivalent to a global standard.

“It was evident while working with Vail early on that traditional sustainable destination certifications were not completely viable for a mountain resort with large scale winter operations and a seasonal influx of both tourists and employees. While there were many positive elements and the groundwork existed, we realized we needed to use the GSTC Criteria to develop a new standard that would be better suited for not only Vail, but other mountain resort destinations in the future,” explained Kim Langmaid, Founder and Vice-President at Walking Mountains Science Center and Vail Town Council Member.

“The Mountain IDEAL standard supports mountain resort communities in advancing a sustainable development agenda. The standard addresses challenges faced in most mountain resort destinations including: managing impacts from overtourism, managing recreation on public lands, protecting vast watersheds and preserving scenic views, developing year-round employment and affordable housing, and embracing the unique mountain cultural heritage,” said Bobby Chappell, Senior Director of Standards and Monitoring at Sustainable Travel International.

Vail will continue to monitor and improve sustainability practices to maintain their Mountain IDEAL destination standard and their actions will continue to evolve and improve over time.

In July 2017, Green Destinations conducted an onsite assessment of Vail. Through a rigorous process, Green Destinations auditors reviewed documentation, interviewed key stakeholders, and completed a thorough evaluation of Vail’s overall approach to sustainable destination management. Following a months-long certification process, Vail was officially certified to the Mountain IDEAL standard in December 2017 making it the first sustainable mountain resort destination in the world. Vail is also recognized as the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the United States because Green Destinations is a fully GSTC-Accredited Certification Body.

“We’ve recognized for a long time that Vail is a global leader in sustainable mountain tourism. This certification is a much-deserved testament to our community’s achievements. We hope it encourages other destinations to adopt the Mountain IDEAL standard and leads to increased collaboration around sustainability in mountain resort destinations,” said Langmaid.

For additional information or media inquiries, please contact [email protected].


Media Contact:

Kaitlyn Brajcich

Sustainable Travel International

[email protected]


About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of people around the world and the environments they rely upon. By leveraging the power of tourism and providing business and government leaders with the guidance, policies and solutions they need, we aim to ensure that the communities they’re engaged in thrive and their environments are healthy for future generations. Sustainable Travel International has been at the forefront of sustainable destination management and sustainable tourism standard development for over 15 years. www.sustainabletravel.org

Media Contact: Kaitlyn Brajcich, Communications Manager, [email protected]


About Town of Vail

Under blue skies more than 300 days each year, Vail is an extraordinary mountain resort destination. Vail is where outdoor pursuits meet village sophistication. Offering more than 5,280 acres of developed ski and snowboard terrain including seven legendary Back Bowls in winter, and flourishing summer recreation complemented by unparalleled arts and events, the options for year-round adventure are endless. Coupled with the vision inherent in the spirit of Vail’s founders, and a modern day commitment to excellence in all aspects of guest service and operations, Vail is a mountain destination like nothing on earth. Visit Vail.com for more information.

Media Contact: Suzanne Silverthorne, Director of Communications [email protected]


About Walking Mountains Science Center

Walking Mountains Science Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Avon, CO and their mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education. Their sustainability department provides the Eagle County community education and coaching through their Energy Smart, Actively Green, Eco Schools and Zero Waste programs. Most recently Walking Mountains facilitated the creation of the Climate Action Plan for the Eagle County Community and is supporting the Town of Vail through the ongoing Sustainable Destination project. www.walkingmountains.org

Media Contact: Paul Abling, Director of Marketing & Communications [email protected]


About Green Destinations

Green Destinations is a non-profit organization of experts and destination ambassadors working in 80 countries. Green Destinations supports the world’s largest community of local, regional and country destination managers and stakeholders, enhancing destination sustainability, market visibility, and tourism quality. Green Destinations developed a complete, affordable and easy-to-use Assessment & Certification program that fits the needs of both small and larger destinations. It is operated through an online Assessment & Reporting platform based upon the GSTC-Recognized Green Destinations Standard and the GD Database with data from 2000 destinations. The GD platform helps destinations to improve sustainability management and performance, and it facilitates the validation of pre-certification benchmark awards (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for various standards (QualityCoast, Mountain IDEAL and national standards) and strategic development progress, also in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. greendestinations.org






Vail to be Assessed as the First Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S.

Vail, CO (July 13, 2017) — After months of preparation, Vail will be hosting an independent site visit next week to determine if it has met the criteria needed to become the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S. The certification process is sponsored by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and Green Destinations, based in The Netherlands.

Conducting the onsite fieldwork taking place July 17-21 will be Magdelena Muir of Calgary, Canada. Her assessment will review the community’s performance on over 40 international standards in the areas of energy, climate, waste, equity, economy, wildlife health and more.

Muir is an internationally renowned professor of energy policy and climate science, published author, attorney and strategist. As the principal of International Energy, Environmental and Legal Services, Ltd. and Climate Sustainability Finance Ltd., Muir provides consulting services on a broad range of economic and energy projects, while also serving on several boards, including the Climate and Global Change, Coastal and Marine Union as well as research organizations including the Arctic Institute of North America.

During her visit, Muir will interview a diverse group of representatives from the resort community including Vail Resorts, Town of Vail, Vail Chamber and Business Association, U.S. Forest Service and Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, among others. She’ll also experience local events and visit top destination gems such as the Vail Farmers’ Market, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Ford Amphitheater Vail Jazz and more.

In partnership with Vail Resorts, the community of Vail and Vail Mountain are aiming to become the first certified sustainable destination in the United States under criteria from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, a non-governmental organization established by the United Nations Environment Programme and several other global partners in response to growth in tourism and the desire to foster increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices. The destination certification criteria include 40 best practices that any tourism destination should aspire to reach. Another global organization, Sustainable Travel International, is also a partner on the Vail project.

Over the past year staff from Walking Mountains Science Center, Town of Vail and Vail Resorts have been assembling supporting data and documentation demonstrating results in criteria categories where the destination excels and as well as a draft implementation plan to improve in areas that may need additional attention. Vail will receive an initial assessment at the end of the audit period and a determination of its certification application in the upcoming months.

“We are creating a new standard that Vail and other mountain resort communities can adopt so that we can all grow and develop in a responsible and sustainable manner. The increasing impacts of our success in promoting mountain tourism have a double-edged sword that requires proactive collaborative planning for the future,” said Walking Mountains Science Center founder and Vail Town Council member Kim Langmaid. The new standard named the Mountain IDEAL will become a model for mountain resort communities across the world.

“The Town of Vail has a long history of environmental stewardship and sustainability including the protection of open space in its Town Charter, the creation of the Vail Nature Center and Preserve in the early 1970s and more recently its proactive approach to restoring the water quality of Gore Creek. We hope to celebrate our successes and elevate our programs in those areas that need more attention,” said environmental sustainability manager Kristen Bertuglia.

The Vail Sustainable Destination Project began when the Environment Committee of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships was tasked to deliver an innovative legacy project. As a first step, the Environment Committee launched the Actively Green Sustainable Business Training and Certification Program which continues to support businesses and other organizations and is coordinated by Walking Mountains Science Center. The Actively Green program supports the larger destination certification project and provides local businesses and employees avenues to participate along the journey to make Vail a sustainable destination. “Vail is a great example of the progress and success that destinations can have when they harness the power of travel and tourism as a force for good,” added Geoff Bolan, CEO of Sustainable Travel International.

Among the certification criteria for destinations are sustainability indicators that address things like tourism infrastructure, planning for climate change, protection of sensitive environments and wildlife, affordable housing, light and noise pollution, programs for youth and seniors, stakeholder participation, cultural heritage protection and sustainability education.

“This whole area of environmental sustainability can become a positive distinguishing feature of the resort, for visitors and residents alike. It’s a wonderful project that can significantly enhance Vail’s future if this becomes a true, community-wide effort,” said long-time Vail resident and Walking Mountains’ board member Alan Danson.

For more information, visit www.walkingmountains.org/vsd or sustainabletravel.org/places/vail/.

Media Contacts:

Suzanne Silverthorn, APR
Town of Vail
[email protected]
(970) 479-2115

Scott Robinson
Walking Mountains Science Centre
[email protected]
(970) 688-4250

Kaitlyn Brajcich
Sustainable Travel International
[email protected]