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Things work differently in Canada

Canadian ski industry hasn’t pushed government on climate change, yet

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“We need to get the operators association involved,” Forseth said.

The ski industry in Canada has always worked with governments on issues that impact it directly, such as safety regulations and development guidelines, but hasn’t often reached outside its own sphere of interest.

“When we had (former Prime Minister Pierre) Trudeau skiing here it was easier,” Forseth said of getting the federal government’s attention.

The Canada West Ski Areas Association, for instance, has much more influence on provincial politics than federal politics. About 60 per cent of Canada West association members are in British Columbia, where the provincial government has made climate change a top priority. Indeed, this week Premier Gordon Campbell said he was going to the Western Premier’s conference in Iqaluit with action on climate change at the top of his agenda.

“We’re pretty well positioned with where the premier’s thinking, and the ski industry is a big player in the provincial economy,” said Forseth.

There is considerably less talk among elected officials in Alberta about climate change, but Forseth still sees the ski industry playing a role in spurring governments to action.

“We are in a good position to bring attention to the issue,” he said. “If our season is shortened or there’s less snow than normal, it has an impact on a lot of businesses.

“But we also have a fairly high profile for the size of the industry.”

Whistler-Blackcomb has taken a number of steps over the years to reduce its impact on climate change and the environment. They have included conducting energy and waste audits, switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles, designing and building ski runs in more ecologically sensitive ways, protecting and restoring fish and wildlife habitat, retrofitting buildings, and establishing carpooling programs for employees. Whistler-Blackcomb is also looking at alternative sources of energy, including a run-of-river hydro project on Fitzsimmons Creek and wind turbines.

“We try not to let (marketing) be the driving reason for doing these things,” Forseth said. “We’ve been criticized for not doing more of the Aspen approach, beating our chest about it — not that Aspen hasn’t done some good things. But we make our efforts for the environment’s sake.

“We prefer to be a little more conservative about what we say and more action-oriented.”

But that action may extend to the political level in the future.

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