Sustainability MissionSugarbush is entrusted with the stewardship of lands in the Mad River Valley.
We believe we have a responsibility to protect the natural environment so that we can continue our resort mission —to cultivate a spirit of lifelong adventure and camaraderie—for future generations. We aim to be an environmental leader promoting sustainable practices in these focus areas: forest, water, waste and energy.rich-text, responsive-table
We oversee the management of nearly 2000 acres
Or equivalent of 187 Sleeper trails
We process 19.5 million gallons of water annually for household usage
That’s enough to fill 536 pond skimming ponds
27.5% of our waste is diverted to recycling
That includes 41 tons of food scraps and 83 tons of recycling
Since the 2012-13 ski season, we’ve reduced electricity usage by 34.5%
Or 5 million kWh
Enough to power 430 homes for a year
Through solar partnerships, we produce 4.7 million kWh annually
That could power all of Mt. Ellen’s operations
Solar Array Development
In 2016, Sugarbush entered into a long-term partnership with Green Lantern Capital of Waterbury, Vermont, to support the development of 2.5 megawatts of clean, renewable solar energy. As of early 2017, four 500 kilowatt arrays—in Poultney, Brandon, New Haven, and Guilford--are fully operational and plugged into Green Mountain Power’s electrical grid. A fifth project, in Wells River, is scheduled to come online by the end of 2017.
Sugarbush’s purchase of discounted net-metering credits generated by these solar arrays provides an economic incentive for clean solar power generation in the state of Vermont, and allows Green Mountain Power to avoid importing electricity from outside the state, the majority of which is produced using fossil fuels (coal and gas).
The Green Lantern Group has partnered with Middlebury-based “Bee the Change” to install three acres of pollinator-friendly flowers and plantings among the solar panels in their New Haven solar array. This will promote and preserve Vermont’s endangered bee, butterfly, and bird populations.
Sugarbush completed a five-year, $5 million upgrade to its snowmaking system in 2014. The project replaced the majority of our traditional snowmaking technology with low-energy snowmaking guns. The new guns require approximately 2% of the power used to run traditional guns, allowing the resort to double snowmaking production during warmer early-season temperatures and run more snowguns simultaneously at both Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen. The resort has seen a reduction in energy consumption supporting ski area operations of approximately 24% without compromising either the quality or quantity of snow.
In 2007, we discontinued use of supplemental diesel generators supporting early-season snowmaking, significantly reducing diesel fuel consumption and the associated air emissions.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Tesla charging is available in the underground parking garage of the Clay Brook Hotel and Residences. Charging is free to hotel guests and owners; resort guests may utilize the Clay Brook parking garage Tesla charging stations for $25. In addition to the Tesla chargers located in the Clay Brook parking garage, 4 EV and 9 Tesla charging stations are available at Lincoln Peak in Parking Lot C. These charger are first come first serve and available at no cost to guests. Plans for additional charging stations in Rice Brook and Gadd Brook residences and Mt Ellen are underway.
Green Mountain Transit provides free winter public transportation between Sugarbush’s two mountains and throughout the Mad River Valley. Sugarbush contributes 30% of the GMT-MRV budget to assist guests and employees with local public transportation options and encourages them to reduce CO2 emissions by leaving their cars at home.
Sugarbush has begun to phase in LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting at the resort in buildings and site lighting. As this technology grows in availability, and costs for LED lighting come down, we will continue to replace existing Fluorescent and HID lamps with LED lamps. Benefits to LEDs include long lifespan relative to other lighting technology (including fluorescent lights); extreme energy efficiency relative to other commercially available lighting technology, which helps to reduce energy use; high light quality; and low maintenance costs.
Traditionally, our off-road diesel fleet (groomers, excavators, and heavy equipment) relied on 100% petroleum diesel (conventional diesel). Since 2004, Sugarbush has implemented the use of biodiesel in off-road diesel machinery, including their entire grooming fleet, to offset conventional diesel usage. In comparison to conventional diesel fuel, biodiesel fuel has lower emissions, is biodegradable, renewable, and non-toxic. Biodiesel availability in the northeast can be variable. Our goal is to run a 20% biodiesel blend in their off-road fleet.
We have provided recycling bins in all public places and in lodging guest rooms for many years. Composting (organics separation) began in 2010 and now occurs in all of resort kitchens (back of the house) including The Schoolhouse and table-service dining locations. Limited guest (front of house) composting was introduced in 2014, with a goal to bring guest composting to all of the cafeterias within the next few years. Public liquid dumping stations were added in Gate House Lodge in 2015-2016.
In 2016, we introduced its first four-stream public waste receptacles in Gate House Lodge. These receptacles allow consumers to separate food scraps, liquids, recyclables and trash. The goal over the next few years is to bring more lodges online with four-stream waste receptacles. Recycling occurs in all staff areas, and composting has begun.
Since 2013, we have increased our diversion rate from 30% to 35%, which represents the amount of material kept out of the landfill. Since 2013, compost tonnage has increased by more than 200%.
Our housekeeping team introduced all non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning supplies in 2005. Resort-supplied shampoo, soap, conditioner, and lotion is biodegradable, and packaged in biodegradable and/or recyclable material. Our linen program offers an optional reuse program for guests, to eliminate unnecessary laundering. Housekeeping staff is trained to turn down thermostats, and turn off lights and televisions, in unoccupied rooms.
Vermont Open-Space Preservation
Sugarbush’s former owner, Win Smith, and his family foundation have donated generously to assist the Vermont Land Trust in purchasing and preserving important land parcels for Vermont’s agricultural and recreational use. Those properties include Camel’s Hump State Park, Blueberry Lake National Forest, Scrag Town Forest, and the Bragg Barn. The Foundation supports numerous other environmental initiatives.
Forest and Vegetation Management Plans
Portions of Sugarbush Resort are located on leased National Forest System lands and are operated under a Special Use Permit issued by the Green Mountain National Forest and portions of the resort are privately held by Sugarbush Mountain Resort and operated under State of Vermont land use and environmental permits.
We have both Vegetation and Forest Management Plans. The VMP applies to Forest Service land while the FMPs apply to private lands. The National Forest oversees the VMP while the VT Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation oversees the FMPs. Both plan types work to balance forest and plant health, wildlife diversity and habitat, water and air quality and ski area operations.
The VMP encompasses 1,745 acres, the FMPs encompass 1,942 acres of which 484 acres are ski trails leaving 3,203 forested acres.
We operate under several stormwater discharge permits which govern the management of stormwater generated from resort-related development and land use. Stormwater is precipitation (snow melt and rain water) that runs off impervious surfaces rather than infiltrating into the soil. Impacts of stormwater runoff can lead to destabilization of downstream stream channels and increased pollution entering our waterways. Stormwater management techniques are employed throughout the resort to remove pollutants, and slow, spread and sink stormwater back into the ground before it enters the brooks and streams around us.
Our Mountain Water Company is committed to providing safe, clean drinking water to resort guests. Resort drinking water comes from the Clay Brook and thirteen bedrock wells, where water is pumped from depths of up to 800 feet. MWC uses energy-efficient pumping technology and lighting in producing water. MWC is operated in strict conformance with US Environmental Protection Agency and VT Agency of Natural Resources domestic water supply rules and complies with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Wastewater (sewer) from the resort is separated and cleaned through a carefully controlled and monitored process that involves collection, filtration, aeration, and disinfection. Lincoln Peak Wastewater Treatment and Mountain Wastewater Treatment are our two large facilities that oversee the careful handling of used water. Read our Sugarbush Magazine article on the resort’s wastewater systems.
Stream and Brook Repair
In the late 1990’s, we initiated a multi-year water-quality remediation plan in partnership with Burlington-based Vanasse Hangen Brustlin. This plan has resulted in the clean-up of several important high-elevation brooks and streams at the resort. In 2012, Sugarbush accepted the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence at the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility spring conference, which recognized the removal of Rice Brook from the state’s “impaired waters” list. This project was subsequently lauded by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1999, Sugarbush created a team of employees, supervisors, and resort management to aid in the implementation of a specific environmental management philosophy. The mission of this group, the Green Team, was to initiate environmental quality enhancements throughout the business operations by preventing pollution and environmental degradation. This goal needed to be met without compromising business objectives, while improving resource efficiency, materials management and handling, and environmental quality resort-wide. Programs such as Resort Green-Up Day and participation in the Way to Go Commuter Challenge were initiated by this group. In 2016 alone, 100 employees spent (collectively) 224 hours “greening up” resort property and the surrounding area. 2016’s Way to Go Challenge logged 34% of employees biking, carpooling, walking, and telecommuting their way to a savings of 5,822 commuting miles and 3,603 pounds of carbon saved.
In 2014, the Green Team was absorbed by the Safety/Environmental/Wellness Committee. This committee has made great strides in supporting resort recommendations to improve its three areas of focus. SEW has introduced the installation of a water-bottle filling station in Gate House lodge; improvements to waste management including implementation of “Trash Talkers”, volunteers and staff who coach guests on how to recycle/compost/and dispose of their trash properly; formalization of a resort-wide no-idling policy; and the purchase and distribution of reusable water pouches for all staff. In the 2016-2017 winter season, more than 5700 water bottles were saved using the new filling station. The resort plans to install three more water-bottle filling stations in main base lodges for the 2017-2018 season. In 2017, the SEW Committee won its third Governor’s Wellness Award in recognition of its work.rich-text, responsive-table
SEW introduced or supports the following initiatives:
- Annual “SEW Day”, an educational day for all staff to celebrate and further SEW focus areas
- Annual “Green-up day”
- Water bottle filling stations at the Gate House Lodge, Mt Ellen Lodge, and the SHaRC
- Improvements to waste management
- Formalization of a resort-wide no-idling policy
- Replacement of Torchlight parade flares with reusable LED lights
- Outdoor lighting improvements
- Elimination of plastic straw use
- Promotion of “Know the Code”
SEW also sets annual goals and challenges for employees. Past goals have included:
- Taking the bus and carpooling
- Better choice meals
- Sun protection
- Getting enough sleep
- Preventing slips by keeping walkways clear
Ways You Can Help
POW -Sugarbush is proud to be one of POW’s (Protect Our Winters) main partners, and they have a ton of ways to help with climate change on their website. Visit their Take Action page to educate yourself, see how your personal habits and routines impact the climate, identify the best ways that you can get involved, and even become a climate advocate!
Did you know that shopping could help fight Climate Change too? That’s right, you can do your Amazon shopping while contributing a percentage of your purchases to POW! Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Green Your Transportation –Green Mountain Transit provides free winter public transportation between Sugarbush’s two mountains and throughout the Mad River Valley. When you can’t take the bus, carpooling with coworkers and friends is always a good option! If you find yourself in the market, consider making your next car an electric vehicle and plug in at one of Sugarbush’s free charging stations. Any of these options help to lower CO2 emissions!
Compost and Recycle –Separating food scraps and recyclable items reduces the amount of garbage that is being taken to landfills. Act 148, Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, requires Vermont residents to separate all recyclables -aluminum cans, plastics, paper, etc. – from the regular trash and was implemented back in 2015. Starting July 1, 2020, the food scrap mandate takes effect, which means all Vermonters must keep food scraps out of the trashcan and instead put into a compost bin. Residents can do their own backyard composting or have it picked up by their waste hauler. Once this law is fully implemented, it is expected to double Vermont’s composting and recycling rates, making it one of the greenest states in the country.
Grab a Reusable Water Bottle –The Sugarbush Utilities department, a dedicated group of certified system operators, work hard 24/7/365 to bring resort guests and employees clean, safe drinking water. We can all feel comfortable refilling our reusable bottles at numerous fill station around the resort to reduce the environmental impacts of bottles water. 17,000,000 barrels of oil are used for plastic water bottles in the US every year.
Save Energy and Support Renewables– Turn the lights off when you leave a room, make the switch to LED light bulbs, unplug device chargers when not in use, use smart power strips, purchase energy efficient appliances, and the list goes on. Consider renewable energy options for your home like solar power or wood heat or very efficient heating sources like heat pumps for water and space heating/cooling. Any of these actions can save you money by lowering your energy bills, save resources and protect the environment.
Plant and Protect the Trees –Intact forests provide many environmental benefits and functions, including timber, food, fuel and bioproducts; ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification, and maintenance of wildlife habitat; social and cultural benefits such as recreation, traditional resource uses and spirituality. Learn more at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation website. One acre of healthy forest can mitigate annual carbon emissions from 62 cars!
To learn more and to discover different ways you can help fight climate change in Vermont, check out the State of Vermont’s Climate Change in Vermont.