Recognizing climate change is one of the greatest threats to the environmental health of the planet, Whistler Blackcomb is committed to one day reducing the environmental footprint of our operations to zero and believes in an “Every Step Counts” philosophy. Whistler Blackcomb has been committed to reducing its impact on the planet since the early 90’s and has employed an in-house environmental management team since 1997. The team has spearheaded the development of a company-wide Sustainability Policy which outlines Whistler Blackcomb’s key areas of focus, including energy conservation, waste management, and guest and staff awareness and education.
Our environmental team
Arthur DeJong has been with Whistler Blackcomb for more than 30 years. Through various roles including Ski Patrol Manager and Mountain Operations Manager for Blackcomb, Arthur has gained an exceptional familiarity with Whistler Blackcomb’s mountain terrain and a deep understanding of the workings of the mountain ecosystem.
Arthur pioneered work in the area of environmental planning on Whistler Blackcomb which has led him to his current position of Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager. In this role, Arthur works to marry planning techniques that both improve the guest experience and respect the natural environment.
Arthur has been an active member of the Whistler community for many years and believes that the key to effective planning is openness and community involvement. Arthur is currently active in numerous community social and environmental groups. He also dedicates volunteer time to crisis line counseling and international aid programs.
Allana Williams has been part of the sustainability team at Whistler Blackcomb since 1997.
As an Energy Manager and Environmental Coordinator, Allana works with management and staff to design, implement and track sustainability initiatives in the areas of energy and waste reduction, education and community outreach.
Allana is the Founder and Chairperson for the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund. She is also the co-author of the Whistler Blackcomb Sustainability Policy and Annual Sustainability Reports.
Allana holds an Honours Degree in Environment and Resource Studies and Business Administration from the University of Waterloo along with several certificates in energy management and facilitation.
At Whistler Blackcomb, we are grateful for the recognition we have received for our efforts in working toward sustainability through the following awards:
2015 – Named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the seventh year in a row by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.: Recognition for leadership on climate change awareness.
2014 – Presented with the SHIFT Sustainability Award, which honors the most innovative, and effective, sustainability and conservation initiatives currently underway in North America.
2014 – Recognized by BC Hydro as a 2014 Power Smart Leader
2012 - BC Hydro Power Smart Excellence Awards Winner in the Power Smart Leader category. This award recognizes Whistler Blackcomb for its best-in-class approach to strategic energy management and an ongoing commitment to energy conservation.
2011 - Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award - Highly commended
2010 - Golden Eagle Award for Overall Environmental Excellence by a Ski Resort in North America.
2010 - Canada's Greenest Employers: Renewable Energy Development, Waste Reduction and Land Conservation Initiatives
2010 - Skiing Magazine - Best renewable energy project
Environmental Awards Whistler Blackcomb has been presented with since 1998.
Staff & the environment
Employees are an integral part of Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental strategy. Through carpooling, employee donations, volunteerism and environmental stewardship, Whistler Blackcomb staff make a big difference. Such employee awareness and participation is, in part, why Whistler Blackcomb has been named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the past seven years in a row, a designation that recognizes employers who are leading the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organizations.
All new staff receive an Environmental Orientation and throughout the year Whistler Blackcomb staff participate in a number of events to showcase sustainability programs including: Earth Day, Clean Air Day, Environment Week, Earth Hour, The Commuter Challenge and Mountain and Valley Clean Up Days.
In 2013, 72% of Whistler Blackcomb employees said Whistler Blackcomb’s commitment to sustainability was a factor in their decision to work here.
Upon beginning employment at Whistler Blackcomb, all staff are required to attend a First Season Orientation which includes a thorough training session regarding the companyís goal of reducing the environmental footprint of our operations to zero. Staff are trained on Whistler Blackcombís Sustainability Policy and are encouraged to commit to sustainable practices in their day to day life as well as at work. Whistler Blackcomb employees participate in events to showcase sustainability programs including: Earth Day, Clean Air Day, Earth Hour, Bike to Work Week and Mountain and Valley Clean-up Days.
Employee carpooling program
Whistler Blackcomb encourages its employees to carpool. Over 66 employees participate in a carpool program that utilizes eight company vehicles and is estimated to save over 1.5 million kilometres of vehicle travel per year Ė equaling a reduction of over 360 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
White bike project
The summer of 2011 saw a new type of transit system operating within Whistler Village; the White Bike Project was launched. The white bikes were introduced by Whistler Blackcombís environmental team to enable smooth, efficient travel of employees between the companyís various buildings in and around the base area. The concept is simple. The bikes are signed out from each building, and signed in at the next building, enabling staff to get around quickly for meetings etc. Like the resortís thriving black bear population, the white bikes hibernate for the winter and re-emerge with the spring thaw.
SUSTAINABILITY IN FOOD & Beverage
Commitment to Sustainable Operations in Every Way
Whistler Blackcomb is a company comprised of mountain lovers who interact with nature every day in the very place they live, work and play. As such, there exists a deep, personal relationship between its many employees and the natural environment. These are the relationships that have made Whistler Blackcomb the company that it is today with a commitment to sustainability that extends throughout every aspect of the organization, including the Food & Beverage department.
Through responsible purchasing, innovative waste solutions and an aggressive composting and recycling program that has reduced the companyís overall garbage by approximately 70 per cent since 2000, Whistler Blackcomb strives to reduce the environmental footprint of our operations to zero at all mountain food and beverage locations.
Environmental initiatives across 17 restaurants include:
- Providing reusable Coca-Cola cold drink cups and coffee mugs instead of single-use cups.
- Use of reusable dishes and cutlery in serveries.
- Signage at facilities to create public awareness on recycling and composting.
- Recycling and composting facilities both in public areas and staff areas.
Through such efforts, Whistler Blackcomb has made significant strides in reducing waste:
- 165 metric tonnes of materials were recycled in 2010
- 833,100 cups - Reduction in single use cups from 2008 to 2009 (when the program was launched) at the three largest alpine facilities: Roundhouse, Rendezvous and Glacier Creek
- 70% reduction in garbage since 2000
- Whistler Blackcomb’s food composting stations in each of its restaurants are over 98% efficient.
- 194 tonnes of food waste was composted in 2014.
In the continued quest for quality, Whistler Blackcomb’s Food and Beverage teams are committed to sourcing the finest in local and regional ingredients, while delivering healthy options and exciting new flavours to valued guests. From locally grown Pemberton potatoes to fantastic BC wines straight from the Okanagan Valley, Whistler Blackcomb’s restaurants use local ingredients as much as possible.
Ocean Wise Seafood Program
Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem. Whistler Blackcomb is a proud participant in the Ocean Wise Seafood Program. All fish and seafood served at any of the 17 food and beverage locations comes from a sustainable source.
Coffee with a conscience
Whistler Blackcomb’s partnership with the Spirit Bear Coffee Company is stirring up awareness. Recognizing a need to help protect the endangered Spirit Bears, the organic coffee company not only named their business after them, they have also pledged to donate 5 per cent of net profits towards preservation the Spirit Bear’s home, the Great Bear Rainforest. Spirit Bear Coffee is now being served at all of Whistler Blackcomb’s 17 mountain top restaurants and dining facilities, helping protect these majestic animals, one cup of coffee at a time.
FITZSIMMONS CREEK RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT
The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project team broke ground in July 2008 and the plant was operational December 2009:
- Located on Fitzsimmons Creek in the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
- Produces the equivalent amount of power to match the total annual energy consumption at Whistler Blackcomb.
- The project returns the power it generates back to the grid, essentially replacing what Whistler Blackcomb takes from the grid.
- Located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area, the run-of-river project produces 33 gigawatt hours of hydroelectricity per year – the equivalent of powering the ski resort’s winter and summer operations including 37 lifts, 17 restaurants, 270 snowguns and countless other buildings and services.
- The Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project has a single turbine with a capacity of 7.9 megawatts.
- Soaring high in the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola at 436 metres/1,427 feet above Fitzsimmons Valley, guests can look down on the Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project below.
- The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project is owned by Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Limited Partnership, a partnership between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Ledcor Power Group.
- Whistler Blackcomb is a strategic partner in the project.
- The power generated by the project is sold to British Columbia’s hydro electric utility, BC Hydro and Power Authority under a 40-year term.
After six years of studies and planning, it was understood that Fitzsimmons Creek was an ideal stream for a run-of-river project. The creek area provides the ultimate conditions for a successful small hydroelectric project:
- There is an abundance of water.
- The area has the necessary vertical drop.
- The diversion reach (stream length between the intake and powerhouse) is not fish-bearing.
- It is not used recreationally within the project area.
- The creek is already tied extensively into Whistler Blackcomb’s snowmaking system.
- Much of the area that has been developed for this project runs along an existing access road for Whistler Blackcomb’s operations.
- The project does not require above-ground transmission lines and the lines can be buried through a previously disturbed area.
- The project also supports the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s 2020 plan, which lays out a vision for success through 2020 based on the three pillars of sustainability; economic, social and environmental.
Awards for this project
- Whistler Blackcomb was awarded the Golden Eagle Award for Overall Environmental Excellence at the 2010 National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) National Convention and Tradeshow.
- Golden Eagle judges recognized Whistler Blackcomb's involvement in the development of the Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy project.
- This is the highest honour given away by the ski industry’s environmental watchdogs.
Environmental Awards Whistler Blackcomb has been presented with since 1998.
The Symphony Express Chairlift Project
The Symphony Express high-speed chairlift opened on December 16, 2006, providing access to 1,000 acres of skiable terrain in an area newly crowned the Symphony Amphitheatre. Previously accessed only by hiking in and out, the Symphony Express provides a unique in-bounds backcountry experience to skiers and riders.
- Through both an internal and a public consultation process, Whistler Blackcomb placed habitat protection at the centre of its 2006 Symphony Project, which involved expanding its terrain into an alpine area known as the Piccolo Peak/Symphony Basin.
- A project team consisting of a ski area planner, lift engineer, biologist, black bear researcher, and professional forester worked on a sustainable design to accommodate a lift with a 2,400-person per hour capacity, without altering the natural wildlife and fish ecosystems.
- The team developed a minimalist design that kept wildlife habitat intact. Ultimately the project’s footprint was reduced to less than five per cent, down from an original estimate of 40 per cent.
Symphony Amphitheatre Facts & Stats
Type of lift:
High Speed Detachable Quad
1,000 skiable acres
Open bowl, glades, two cut trails
Low intermediate to expert
Reducing The Footprint:
- The team focused only on removing trees that were between tree islands or that presented a disease threat. This process mimics the natural succession of forests at higher elevations, as trees need to cluster to survive. Forest species composition was essential, leaving trees that represented a minority species as a percentage of the overall stand. Seventy per cent of the stand was sub-alpine fir with the remainder being hemlock and cedar.
- Each day during logging operations photos and observations were made at all designated visual corridors. Changes were made on a daily basis to ensure no linear or other unnatural visual affect occurred.
- Trees were removed via helicopter and all lift towers and assemblies were placed via helicopter, ensuring minimal impact on the ground.
- This selective forestry approach, called a “silviculture prescription,” enhanced lichen production for deer and berry production for black bears.
- Denning and wetlands areas were completely safeguarded from development.
- Landings for harvested trees and lift tower assembly were allocated in a different watershed where ground was already disturbed.
- The bottom lift station location was relocated to stay out of sub-alpine wetlands
- Setbacks were established for water courses, ensuring no unnatural sediment flow.
- All lift foundations were built over the snow ensuring ground disturbance was reduced to the foundation site only. This work was done in April/May 2006 under a one to three meter snow pack. Thirty-five to 40-tonne excavators worked overnight and early morning while the snow pack was firm. Meanwhile, fuel was flown to work sites.
- Limited blasting work was performed only by hand drills.
- Course woody debris was prescribed at the direction of a biologist.
- Fuel loads were assessed to ensure low future fire threats.
- In addition to reducing the ecological footprint of the Symphony Express, Whistler Blackcomb also implemented a renewable energy source to power several man-made features related to the chairlift.
- This 10-kilowatt turbine in Flute Creek, which is adjacent to the Symphony Chair, powers the lights and heat for the lift hut and washroom at the base of the Symphony Express Chair.
- The micro-hydro project was the first project of its kind for the ski resort.
Awards for this project
- In 2006, Whistler Blackcomb received the Tourism British Columbia Award for Environmentally Responsible Tourism and was recognized for its work on the Symphony Express.
- In 2007, Whistler Blackcomb received the Silver Eagle Award for Fish & Wildlife Habitat Protection for the development of the Symphony Amphitheatre.
Environmental Awards Whistler Blackcomb has been presented with since 1998.
Whistler Blackcomb continues to work towards its worthy goal of one day reducing the environmental footprint of our operations to zero by focusing on such areas as: energy conservation, waste reduction, sustainable development, ecological and wildlife protection, as well as staff and guest involvement.
Did You Know: The carbon footprint of a full day skiing/riding at Whistler Blackcomb is equivalent to driving a mid-sized car at 100km/hr for seven minutes on the highway?
Whistler Blackcomb Named One of Canada's Greenest Employers for the eighth Year In a Row
Whistler Blackcomb continues to be recognized for its proactive approach to climate change. The National Canadian Roundtable on the Economy and Environment has recently recognized Whistler Blackcomb for its leadership on climate change awareness. The recognition continues as Whistler Blackcomb is proud to be named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the eighth year in a row by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. Whistler Blackcomb was chosen for, among other reasons, their long history of working with community stakeholders on local environmental initiatives. Whistler Blackcomb, through the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, matches dollar-for-dollar employee contributions to the environmental fund -- over $340,000 has been donated to specific environmental projects since 2001.
Whistler Blackcomb Presented with SHIFT 2014 Sustainability Award
In May 2014, Whistler Blackcomb was named one of the winners of the first SHIFT Sustainability Awards. SHIFT is an annual festival that celebrates the future of conservation and the Awards recognize the most effective, innovative conservation and sustainability initiatives currently underway around North America. The winners were selected from over 600 initiatives who were first identified by SHIFT researchers based on their ability to produce a measurable, meaningful contribution in one of the following areas:
- Increased efficiency
- Decreased toxicity
- Reduced consumption
- Increased transparency
- Healthier ecosystems
- Healthier communities
Whistler Blackcomb was awarded in the Adventure category for its efforts in continuously working towards achieving a zero operating footprint.
Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project
Whistler Blackcomb invested the better part of six years to spearhead a micro-hydro renewable energy project on Fitzsimmons Creek in the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Finally in July 2008, ground breaking began on a project that would produce the equivalent amount of power to match Whistler Blackcomb’s annual energy consumption. The project was operational in December 2009 and remains a key element of Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental strategy.
Located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area, the run-of-river project produces 33 gigawatt hours of hydroelectricity per year – the equivalent of powering the ski resort’s winter and summer operations including 37 lifts, 17 restaurants, 270 snowguns and countless other buildings and services. The project returns the power it generates back to the grid, essentially replacing what Whistler Blackcomb takes from the grid. The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project is owned by Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Limited Partnership, a partnership between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Ledcor Power Group. Whistler Blackcomb is a strategic partner in the project.
Energy Savings – A BC Hydro Power Smart Company
Whistler Blackcomb is recognized by BC Hydro as one of its top 10 Power Smart Partners, selected from companies across the province. This recognition comes from years of investing in energy saving initiatives across the mountains’ facilities and operations, and working on awareness building and behavioral change programs with employees. Whistler Blackcomb energy conservation projects represented a savings of over 2.5 million kilowatt hours between the years 2012 and 2013, an estimated $951,680 in annual savings.
Whistler Blackcomb was recently named a finalist in the Leadership Excellence category for the BC Hydro 2014 Power Smart Excellence Awards.
Getting To The Projects With The Biggest Impact – Energy Monitoring, Targeting and Reporting Project
To get to the root of energy usage across Whistler Blackcomb’s operations, the company has spent three years (2009-2011) installing 26 sub-metres to monitor usage in specific areas. Prior to the installation of the sub-metres, energy usage was only tracked via two BC Hydro installed metres – one for Whistler Mountain and one for Blackcomb Mountain. Metring helps Whistler Blackcomb determine which parts of the company’s operations consume the most energy, enabling it to focus resources on projects that will have the biggest environmental impact. One particular area of interest is the company’s massive snowmaking operation. The sub-metres have revealed that in 2010/11snowmaking accounted for 30% of the company’s entire annual energy consumption, and that it was expended during a four-month period.
To help combat energy usage and find opportunities for savings, real-time monitoring has also been introduced with alerts being provided to staff when usage targets are exceeded. This enables a real-time response to spikes and issues, versus having to wait until season-end reports are generated to gain understanding. The winter of 2011/12 will reveal the results of this project and measure the impact that monitoring/reporting will have on energy consumption.
Data obtained from 2013 shows that while Whistler Blackcomb continues to groom more acreage, it has successfully held the line on hydrocarbons, and has actually succeeded in achieving a 1 per cent reduction from 2012. This is due to a highly successful anti-idling campaign. Almost 76 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb’s fuel consumption is used by the grooming fleet. With new engine technology becoming available, Whistler Blackcomb projects a significant drop in fuel consumption by over 40 per cent within the next five years.
SNOWMAKING ON THE HORSTMAN GLACIER
This winter season, Whistler Blackcomb will conduct a new snowmaking pilot project aimed at preserving the Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain. The pilot project will involve the testing of four low-energy consumption snowmaking guns in the Horstman Hut area to determine if a full-scale snowmaking system is an option to prevent further recession of the Horstman Glacier. A snowmaking system on the Horstman Glacier could improve the early season access to glacier skiing and snowboarding during the winter and preserve our summer glacier experience for guests to enjoy in the future. If the pilot project is conclusive, this unique project will become a significant addition to Whistler Blackcomb’s list of adaptations to ensure long-term resilience against climate change.
EDUCATIONAL MOUNTAIN TOURS
In the summer of 2014, Whistler Blackcomb began offering two educational mountain tours spearheaded by Whistler Blackcomb’s Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager, Arthur DeJong. The “Twilight Photography” tour takes guests to the most iconic places on Whistler Blackcomb by truck where they will learn how to capture the magic of the area by some of Whistler’s top photographers. For guests looking to get behind the scenes and learn about the ecosystems and fascinating geology around Whistler Blackcomb, the “Two Peaks, Two Pasts” tour will be available. Tours will take guests by truck to explore the mountain’s sustainable operations.
Food And Beverage
Whistler Blackcomb’s massive food and beverage operation implemented a major reduce/reuse/recycle campaign across 17 restaurants to significantly reduce waste. Efforts have resulted in a 70% reduction in garbage since the year 2000, equaling 890 metric tonnes less garbage.
Initiatives included providing reusable Coca-Cola cold drink cups and Seattle’s Best coffee mugs instead of single-use cups, use of reusable dishes and cutlery in serveries, signage at facilities to create public awareness about recycling and composting, recycling and composting facilities in both public and staff areas, and a review of purchasing habits. In 2009, an incredible 833,100 single use cups were saved from ending up in the trash at the three largest alpine restaurant facilities: Roundhouse, Rendezvous and Glacier Creek.
Habitat Improvement Team (HIT)
Facilitated by Whistler Blackcomb, with extensive community involvement, this environmental team is dedicated to improving wildlife habitat throughout Whistler Resort. Since HIT’s inception in 1997, more than 110 projects have been completed. Community members and employees get together every second Tuesday to work out in the field on projects (followed up by the obligatory après session at Merlin’s).
Operation Green Up
Established in 1998, this $1.5 million mountain restoration enhancement program is designed to enhance and restore the mountain ecosystems. Primary objectives include erosion control, applying planting strategies/seed mixes that enhance wildlife populations, enhancing visual appeal, and utilizing native species wherever possible.
Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund
The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund (WBFEF) was established in 2001 and is dedicated to providing financial support to qualified donees whose actions show a benefit to the natural environment in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Funds are donated by Whistler Blackcomb Employees, who can choose to donate $1 or $2 per week (automatically deducted from paycheques) or lump sum donations via a one-time donation form. All employee donations are matched 100% by the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation. To date, the WBFEF has contributed more than $350,000 to 78 local projects.
Mountain Clean Up Day
Each spring, Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental department organizes a mountain clean up day in which employees volunteer to remove garbage that remains on the ski runs and around food and beverage facilities after the snow melts.
As an effort to preserve the pristine alpine environment that Whistler Blackcomb’s guests and staff come to Whistler for, the company introduced a Smoke-Free Policy in May 2015. The policy prohibits smoking anywhere on Whistler Blackcomb property, including lift lines, chairlifts, gondolas, ski runs, hiking trails, valley base areas, parking lots, Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park trails and all Whistler Blackcomb bar and restaurant locations, including patios. The policy applies to both guests and Whistler Blackcomb staff, aligning with the company’s core values of Safety First and We Care, as well as its goal to be health-oriented and family friendly. The policy is also aimed to help mitigate the risk of forest fires on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
Learn more about Whistler Blackcombís commitment to the environment