Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Crested Butte benefits from Vail’s EpicPromise initiatives

CBMR joins forces with Vail’s sustainability and community efforts

By Kendra Walker

As a new member under the Vail Resorts umbrella, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has experienced inevitable changes that come with transitioning from a small-town ski area into a subsidiary of the world’s leading mountain resort franchise. Take these changes as you will: Among them is CBMR’s collaboration with the Vail EpicPromise program.

One of Vail’s missions is to strengthen and sustain the communities under its wing, like Crested Butte, to help preserve and improve their beautiful landscapes. Enter EpicPromise. Through environmental efforts and community involvement, EpicPromise aims to help conserve these ski towns for future generations of outdoor adventure-seekers.

EpicPromise is a company-wide program, but each local community may prioritize individual efforts and grant recipients as necessary, according to CBMR senior communications specialist Zach Pickett.

Commitment to Zero

One of the initiatives under EpicPromise is “Commitment to Zero,” Vail’s environmental pledge to achieve a zero net operating footprint by 2030. This includes the goals of reaching zero net emissions, zero waste to landfills and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat, all by 2030.

On July 2, CBMR employees joined forces with the U.S. Forest Service to plant 600 trees in the Double Top Glades of the ski area’s East River zone. “This partnership effort is meant to help ensure forest resiliency, and supports the preservation and improvement of our mountain landscape in conjunction with Vail Resorts’ Commitment to Zero,” said Pickett of the tree planting.

According to Pickett, CBMR is also working hard to identify composting opportunities. The resort is currently providing the bulk of food waste to a local Gunnison pig farm, Calder Farm, and other food waste is being composted for landscaping soil at CBMR. The resort has also switched to compostable and recycled-content Eco-Products to eliminate conventional single-use plastics and “We are working to improve waste and recycling signage to be consistent across our outlets and the larger Vail Resorts enterprise,” said Pickett. “We offer paired waste and recycling bins in public areas to encourage appropriate disposal.”

Throughout this last fiscal year, Vail donated $1.19 million to organizations focused on healthy forests. In November 2018, the company announced a long-term wind energy contract to purchase the equivalent amount of electricity (310,000 megawatt hours annually) needed to power its North American operations by 2020 and reduce their emissions by 100 percent, according to Vail’s announcement. Referred to as the Plum Creek Wind Project, it is slated for completion in 2020.

Community Investment and Land Trust Partnership

Pickett also explained EpicPromise’s focus on community investment, saying, “To date, [community investment] may be where Vail Resorts’ presence has most impacted our local community.” This includes events such as the Teocalli/Twister chairlift sale in June, where 50 percent of the proceeds were donated to the Crested Butte Land Trust for its Long Lake Exchange Project.

“Approximately $30,000 of the chair proceeds were donated to the land trust,” said Pickett. “The remainder was donated to the EpicPromise Employee Foundation,” which benefits employees with financial aid and scholarships in times of need. The EpicPromise Employee Foundation has funded two emergency grants and three $10,000 scholarships for CBMR employees to date.

In December 2018, the Katz Amsterdam Foundation donated $30,000 to Gunnison Valley Hospital Foundation to help fund the Ore Bucket mental health therapy rooms. A guest donation program has also been created to further support the Crested Butte Land Trust as well as the new Gunnison County Stewardship Fund, where guests have the option to donate $1 when purchasing an Epic Pass product online. “This will equate to at least $50,000 to local forest health projects,” said Pickett.

Community trail work

Coming up on September 14 is Vail’s EpicPromise Day, where CBMR and its employees will be partnering with the Crested Butte Land Trust to focus on three different habitat and trail work projects in the area.

The first project will be trail restoration work to Long Lake. “The Allen family has been generously permitting the public to access Long Lake across their Washington Gulch property for a very long time, which has allowed the community to enjoy convenient access to the lake,” said Crested Butte Land Trust executive director Noel Durant. “The impacts of the public using this steep trail are taking a toll on the property.”

In partnership with the Allens, CBMBA/Crested Butte Conservation Corps and Vail, EpicPromise volunteers will work to create a new sustainable hiking-only trail and begin restoration of the current trail.

The second project will include noxious weed removal at the confluence of Coal Creek and Slate River, the land trust’s first conserved property. “As [Crested Butte is] the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, noxious weeds are public enemy number one, as they have the potential to irreparably harm the native vegetation that we all love,” said Durant.

Finally, EpicPromise volunteers will work on the stabilization of agricultural loafing sheds on the Niccoli Homestead, a key tool for ranching in the valley, according to Durant.

“As a conservation landowner protecting what makes Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley special, the Crested Butte Land Trust relies on partnerships to ensure our scenic views, wildlife habitat, working ranches and recreational access are still here for the next generation to enjoy,” said Durant. “EpicPromise and Vail Resorts employees are investing in the future of our open space through stewardship projects that wouldn’t be possible by the land trust alone and bolster the great work and generosity with key conservation partners in our community.”

While the EpicPromise Day projects will be specifically for the Vail/CBMR employee volunteer force, Durant said the land trust plans to host more trail work days open to the community to get them across the finish line at Long Lake—so stay tuned.

“EpicPromise, and all of these efforts, tie directly into Vail Resorts’ core value, Do Good: Preserve our natural environments and contribute to the success of our local communities,” said Pickett. “We cannot speculate on future efforts, but will continue to identify where we can make the most positive impacts for the Crested Butte community.”

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