ASPEN, Colo. In the wake of increasing criticism of the ski industry by environmentalists during the 1990s, the National Ski Areas Association several years ago created its Sustainable Slopes program.
Sustainable Slopes encourages member ski areas to take actions that lessen the impact of skiing on the environment. But critics say its voluntary nature allows members to brag of accomplishments without taking meaningful action. The usual description is "greenwash."
Two academics last year concluded that the critics were right. Jorge Rivera of George Washington University and Peter De Leon of the University of Colorado at Denver labeled the program a "symbolic self-regulatory scheme that does not appear to effectively improve industry-wide environmental protection." They said the industry needed third-party audits to be credible.
Thats what two ski area operators, The Aspen Skiing Co. and British Columbias Sun Peaks, have done. Both have earned certification through the International Organization for Standardization. Conducting the audit was Mark Gage, from a Vancouver firm called KPMG Performance Registrar.
The Aspen Times reports Gate spent three days grilling company executives, examining maintenance shops that service snow groomers and snowmobiles, and touring ski area facilities to assess the effectiveness of the environmental management program. Gage said one of his interests is assessing how formalized environmental policies are, and if a company has clear lines of accountability. He was less concerned about high-profile programs like recycling, but more interested in such things as the handling of materials after vehicle maintenance.
Auden Schendler, director of environmental affairs for the Aspen Skiing Co., said the certification now in its second year "means something." He told the Times that Aspens certification may put pressure on Intrawest, Vail Resorts and other ski area operators to follow suit. Gate reported that other resorts have already approached his company about audits. While some of that interest stems from innate goodness, he said he also sees competition being a motivator.
Viagra for altitude sickness
TELLURIDE, Colo. One consolation for aging is that people over 50 are less susceptible to altitude sickness.
Why is that? The Telluride Watch explains that as people age, their brains shrink, requiring less oxygen.
But, for those who do get the severe and often fatal forms of altitude sickness, cerebral and pulmonary edema, there is a curious remedy: Viagra. The drug that is prescribed for impotency can also promote oxygenation through increased blood flow.
The source for this is not a drug companys PR flak, but one of nations premiere high-altitude physicians, Peter Hackett. Renowned among mountain climbers for his work on Denali, as Alaskas Mt. McKinley is often known, he now practices medicine in Telluride.