Reduce the impact: managing the slopes

Reduce the impact: managing the slopes

As stewards of the land, Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) members take a serious responsibility to protect the biodiversity in each area, minimizing pollution and reducing their impact on the land, wildlife, air and water. Throughout the winter, we are highlighting leading examples from various resorts and the steps they are taking to reduce their impact on the environment.

Decades ago when skiing first became a recreational sport, cutting a trail through the trees was common place and once the construction was done, there wasn’t much attention paid to the land below. Fast-forward to present day and the planning and maintenance of existing and new terrain at any ski area in Western Canada is a massive undertaking.

Through careful planning, execution and reclamation, ski resorts are working diligently to protect the environment and reduce any possibility of slope erosion. Certified in 2004 with the ISO 14001 rating for their Environmental Management System (EMS), Sun Peaks Resort incorporates environmental planning into every day decision making.  For example with GPS-mapped infrastructure, the maintenance teams are able to locate and monitor all drainage systems, and allows the resort to address potential issues.

“Part of slope erosion is seeding construction areas to prevent any run-off in the following spring when the snow melts,” explains Keith Lyall, EMS program manager at Sun Peaks. “The revegetation of any construction area with fast-growing perennials and mountain or native grasses in the fall, provides us excellent coverage and stability by spring.”

Marmot Basin near Jasper has a trail crew on the mountain immediately after the season wraps to help prevent any slope erosion on their land. At the bottom of the mountain, groomers push the snow into piles, and open up the water bars that zig-zag down the bottom 300 feet of the mountain.

“By pushing away the snow in the spring and opening up these water bars, all of the snow above finds its way into the water bars and ditches, and flows off the mountain,” says Rob Ellen, Mountain Operations Manager at Marmot.

These protection and reclamation processes are a vital part of preventing slope erosion and protecting the land on which we are privileged enough to enjoy as outdoor enthusiasts. An added bonus — The natural vegetation planted by the ski areas creates a stunning mountain backdrop every summer.

Find out more about Responsible Stewardship in the Ski Industry.