Things work differently in Canada 

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

By Bob Barnett

While the National Ski Areas Association may be testifying before United States Senate committees about climate change, the ski industry in Canada works a little differently.

That doesn’t mean people in the industry in this country aren’t concerned about climate change. Several Canadian ski areas, including Whistler-Blackcomb, have instituted programs to limit greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption and limit their carbon footprint.

But speaking with one voice to the Canadian government about climate change is something that perhaps only the automobile industry and the oil and gas industry have done to date.

“The scene is a little different in the U.S. than in Canada,” said Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations for Whistler-Blackcomb.

“Canada doesn’t have the same umbrella organization (NSAA). Because of that, we aren’t seeing quite the same effort with Ottawa as in Washington.”

The NSAA’s Michael Berry testified before a U.S. Senate committee in May. The NSAA has yet to take a formal position on climate change, but says government action is necessary.

And Auden Schendler, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s executive director for community and environmental responsibility, says the next step “is to use the whole industry as a lobbying force to drive large scale, legislative change. This isn't about making your resort more energy efficient. It’s about using the whole industry as a club to beat our legislators into action.”

In Canada, at this point, the ski industry is less a club and more like a collection of sticks. But a few of them are pointed.

The Canada West Ski Areas Association, which represents ski areas in the western provinces and which Forseth chairs, has discussed climate change extensively. Forseth is not sure what the ski area associations in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces have done but he believes ski area operators should take on a bigger role in pushing the federal government to act on climate change.

“I think maybe we’re not on top of that as much as we should be. It’s something we should be doing,” said Forseth.

The Canada West Ski Areas Association board will be meeting this month and Forseth said he will make sure that climate change is on the agenda.

The Canadian Ski Council also meets later this month for its annual Canadian Snow Industry Symposium & Tradeshow, at Blue Mountain, in Ontario. The CSC is more of a marketing arm for the ski industry but within its three-day conference there is a meeting of ski area operators, and Forseth plans on making sure climate change, and what ski areas should be doing about it on the political level, is on that agenda for discussion.

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