In an industry that tends to steer clear of politics, ski resort juggernaut Vail Resorts made a major announcement this week, vowing to “aggressively pursue” a company-wide commitment toward greater sustainability by 2030.

Specifically, in a press release, the company promised zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill, and zero net operating impact to forests and habitats. The plan, titled “Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint,” was published online as part of the big reveal. 

The release quoted Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, as being ecstatic over the news. “The environment is our business, and we have a special obligation to protect it,” he was quoted as saying. “As a growing global company so deeply connected to the outdoors, we are making a commitment to address our most pressing global environmental challenge and protect our local communities and natural resources.”

Still, part of what makes the news such a big deal is that the company has historically steered clear of making definitive statements about the environment. Vail Resorts has grown at breakneck speed in the past few years, and a story in Powder magazine this week detailed Vail Resorts’ support of political candidates who, at least on some level, deny climate change.

The Powder story suggests that the U.S. government’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord was the impetus for a new direction. Following that decision, the company released a statement condemning the move and vowing to engineer substantial changes to its environmental policies.

This week’s plan embodies those changes.

The Vail release notes that company officials were inspired by environmental efforts at Whistler-Blackcomb, a ski resort in Whistler, British Columbia, that Vail Resorts acquired last year.

Other ski resorts that Vail owns include Northstar in Lake Tahoe, California; Breckenridge in Colorado; and Park City Resort in Utah. 

It’s worth noting that, on a day-to-day basis, beyond an uptick in recyclable and compostable packaging, the new sustainability plan will have minimal bearing on travelers. Behind the scenes, however, the impact could be tremendous; among other initiatives, Vail will invest $25 million in energy-saving projects from low-energy snowmaking equipment to green building design and construction.

The change in priorities is the real news. Vail Resorts tallied 11.6 million visitors during the 2016-2017 season—a formidable base. The company is leading by example.

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