CBMR and Vail making a positive impact through EpicPromise

Community and sustainability efforts large focus in Crested Butte

[  By Kendra Walker  ]

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is no doubt a beacon of stoke, adventure and community for the Gunnison Valley. It’s the reason many of us moved here, visit here and continue to play here winter after winter. As a Vail Resorts mountain, CBMR is not only an epic playground for outdoor activities in both summer and winter, but also a beneficiary of Vail’s corporate responsibility platform, EpicPromise. 

EpicPromise aims to help strengthen and sustain the communities under its wing, through environmental efforts, community involvement, employee opportunities and equity for all outdoor adventure seekers. EpicPromise includes four pillars: Commitment to Zero; Community Impact; EpicPromise Employee Foundation; and Epic for Everyone. Here’s how EpicPromise is making a difference at Crested Butte Mountain Resort:

Community Impact Program

The EpicPromise Community Impact grant program promotes health and sustainability in each of the resort communities in which Vail operates. 

“At Crested Butte Mountain Resort and across all Vail Resorts, we believe the strength and health of our communities are vital to our shared success,” said CBMR communications manager Julie Block. “We strive to be more than a corporate funder, and seek to partner to support holistic approaches to problem solving based on each community’s unique strengths and challenges. Relationships built with community leaders allow us to better understand the unique needs of our neighbors, and the resources or support required to address those needs.”

In 2022, Vail donated more than $500,000 of cash and in-kind grants to local organizations in the Gunnison Valley, including the Crested Butte Land Trust, Crested Butte State of Mind, Living Journeys, Mountain Roots Foot Project, Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, Gunnison Country Food Pantry, Gunnison Hinsdale Youth Services and KBUT Radio. According to Block, employees living in the community help identify needs and decide which organizations receive the community grants. 

In addition, CBMR hosts an annual Donation Day that benefits a different local organization each year. Guests visiting the resort can contribute to local non-profits, and individual donations are met by a $7,500 guaranteed match from the EpicPromise Foundation. CBMR is still in the process of organizing a Donation Day for the 2022/23 season, which will take place sometime in the spring. 

Commitment to Zero

Vail Resorts also recognizes that climate change is a major issue the ski industry faces and has a Commitment to Zero: the goal to achieve a zero net operating footprint by 2030 through zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat. 

“As a company that operates in the great outdoors, we have a special responsibility to protect the incredible places we live, work and play,” said Block. “Commitment to Zero creates the opportunity for one mountain resort operator to have a big impact on preserving the environment. We’re well on our way to achieving our goal.”

Through Commitment to Zero, Vail Resorts is pursuing a 15% energy efficiency savings goal by 2030. This will be achieved through a $25 million investment across buildings, snowmaking and lifts. “As of November 2022, we are incredibly proud to be ahead of schedule,” said Block, as Vail Resorts has already surpassed its 2025 interim goal of 50% progress toward zero net emissions, and achieved 100% renewable electricity across its North American operations. 

In 2022, $245,000 was invested into retrofitting CBMR’s facilities with more energy-efficient LED lighting and upgrading refrigeration systems with higher-efficiency motors and fan blades. “CBMR will continue to evaluate additional projects to save energy and also replicate energy-saving projects that have been successful at other Vail resorts,” said Block.

Vail Resorts has also invested in renewable energy projects, including the Plum Creek wind farm in Nebraska that has been producing clean energy since 2020. The Elektron Solar Project in Utah is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2023. “These projects helped us reach 100% renewable electricity across our North American resorts in 2022, and 96% worldwide,” said Block. 

Block noted that CBMR also encourages guests to utilize the free public transportation options in the Gunnison Valley, including the Mountain Express shuttles in CB and Mt. CB, the RTA from Gunnison and the Bustang for travelers coming from Denver, Fairplay, Buena Vista and Salida.

Vail’s Commitment to Zero also focuses on reducing food and beverage waste. CBMR recycles glass, plastic bottles, paper, used fryer oil, cardboard, scrap metal, rubber, E-waste, soft plastic, latex gloves and wooden pallets. Starting this winter, candy and chip wrappers will also be recycled in bulk, in partnership with Pepsi and TerraCycle, said Block.

CBMR also began composting in 2019. “The compost includes pre- and post-consumer food waste, green waste such as yard clippings and leaves, shredded paper, and Eco-Products, all of which is hauled to 3XM Grinding and Compost in Montrose County,” said Block. CBMR composted 21.75 tons of food scraps and compostable packaging last season, for a total of 65 tons since the program began. CBMR also works with Eco-Products for compostable food and beverage containers. “Through this partnership, we’re on the way to eliminating all single-use, guest-facing conventional plastic products and replacing them with compostable or recycled-content products,” said Block. 

CBMR food and beverage employees are also trained to clear and sort empty containers, packaging and food scraps into compost, recyclables and waste. “We also have a designated team that moves product up the mountain and brings waste down to containers specific to their waste streams,” said Block. Ski school supervisors also sort food scraps from participant lunches, and a new sorting station is currently being built in the ski school locker room. “Thanks in part to our team’s composting and recycling efforts, Vail Resorts achieved a 29% reduction in waste to landfill from our baseline in fiscal year 2022 — nearly five million pounds!”

“At Crested Butte Mountain Resort, we are committed to being responsible stewards of this incredible place where we get to live, work, and play,” said Ryan Groat, CBMR food and beverage warehouse manager and Commitment to Zero captain. “We rely on our dedicated team members and guests to bring these programs to life, and it is because of their passion for building a better, more sustainable future that we are able to continue making progress toward our goals.”

Also new this season, CBMR has added an “environmental agent” employee, who helps the mountain keep on track with Vail Resorts’ Commitment to Zero goals and generating ideas for how to further them moving forward. 

Another focus of Commitment to Zero, Vail Resorts is dedicated to restoring an acre of forest for every acre permanently impacted by new and expanded operations. “In 2022, Vail Resorts partnered with the National Forest Foundation to plant 18,498 trees across Colorado and California.”

This year at CBMR a tree was planted in the base area to serve as the annual holiday tree. “So that there is one less tree being chopped down each year for our holiday celebrations,” noted Block. The tree was introduced earlier this month for Mt. Crested Butte’s annual Light Up the Night event and will be lit throughout the holiday season. “We hope to be able to light that tree for Light Up the Night each year moving forward,” said Block. 

The restoration and preservation of forested land is also benefited through the guest donation program. One-dollar donations from the purchase of Vail Resorts products and Epic Passes are given to EpicPromise partners supporting the environment. This year the program raised $1.8 million, including nearly $50,000 going to the Crested Butte Land Trust.

Epic for Everyone

Another priority of Vail Resorts is to ensure equitable access to skiing and riding. The Epic for Everyone program partners with adaptive and youth development organizations to help increase youth access and adaptive access for those with physical and mental barriers. In 2022, Vail Resorts contributed $4.7 million to adaptive programs, including Crested Butte’s very own Adaptive Sports Center. 

Crested Butte is also home to a youth access program, said Block. “We are investing further in the expansion of this program in the 2022/23 season, with the goal to host 9,000 youth across 29 resorts, including Crested Butte. In total, the company invested over $8 million in this program in 2022,” she said. 

EpicPromise Employee Foundation

The EpicPromise Employee Foundation is a non-profit that supports Vail Resorts employees and their dependents through emergency financial assistance and educational grants. In 2022, the foundation gave $1.3 million to 445 employees and their families through emergency relief and educational grants. “Our employees are at the core of who we are, and we are committed to supporting them through times of need and setting them up for success,” said Block. 

The Emergency Relief program provides financial grants to employees experiencing an emergency or crisis. The Educational Ascent program is a scholarship of up to $2,500 for Vail Resorts employees pursuing a degree or certificate program, and the EpicPromise Scholars grant awards a scholarship of up to $10,000 for the dependents of Vail Resorts employees. 

Katz Foundation

Though not part of the EpicPromise initiatives, the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust and Foundation was founded by former Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam to be a catalyst for eliminating barriers to health, increasing access to opportunity, protecting basic rights and improving outcomes for all communities.

Just this month, the Foundation awarded $2.46 million in mental and behavioral health grants to mountain communities, including $120,000 to benefit non-profits in the Gunnison Valley. The Gunnison Valley Health Foundation and CB State of Mind were each awarded $60,000. CB State of Mind will implement a campaign to promote tele-behavioral health and to provide therapy scholarships for communities of color and those needing substance abuse treatment. GVH Foundation will use the funds to expand equitable access by increasing Spanish-speaking resources and improving access to peer support services.

“It has become increasingly important to make systematic changes to increase equitable access to behavioral health services in Gunnison County as our Spanish speaking population continues to grow,” said GVH Foundation director Jenny Birnie in a press release. “Through grant funds from the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust, we will provide more in-person translators at our health care facilities, employ a new Bi-Lingual Patient Navigator, and provide translation devices to our school-based clinicians.” 

Tara Schoedinger, CBMR vice president and general manager, expressed her commitment to the EpicPromise initiatives and how they impact the Gunnison Valley. 

“As an operation that is rooted in the great outdoors, we are passionate about helping our employees, our community and our environment thrive. The Gunnison community is unique, and I’m grateful for the incredible work Crested Butte Mountain Resort and EpicPromise do to support the people, organizations and the natural environment that make this community so special.”

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