Back and Forward: Michael Reitzell

California Ski Industry Association president on environmental stewardship

Back Q&A May 14, 2018

Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association, offers his insight into environmental stewardship by the region’s ski resorts. For more from Reitzell, check out “Squaw Goes Green” in our May issue. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll email you when it’s available online.

What’s the biggest change in environmental stewardship by the Northern California ski resorts in the past year?

Our California resorts have been environmental stewards for many years, and that will no doubt continue with new projects each year to improve our carbon footprint. In the last year, however, I think the biggest change is gaining an understanding and acceptance that issues surrounding climate change are so much bigger than the ski industry. Even if our entire industry could move to 100 percent renewable energy next year, we wouldn’t put a dent in the global challenge in front of us. Therefore, our member resorts, and our industry as a whole, have come to understand that we must look outside our own projects and consider how we can have a greater impact beyond our own footprint.   

Moving forward, how will these changes continue to impact the industry in the coming year?

With an understanding of the global problem we face, we need to reach more people. We average 6.5 to 7 million skier visits a year in California and Nevada. We need to mobilize our guests in the fight against climate change. For example, with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows’ and Sierra-at-Tahoe’s removal of single-use plastic water bottles, we hope guests return home and continue that practice in their homes, at work and at school — making their own push for change in places we do not control. When guests see Boreal add the largest solar project in the industry, they might consider the same for their house or where they work. We believe our guests will support nonprofit groups the way our members support groups like Ceres, the National Ski Areas Association Climate Challenge and Protect Our Winters. All guests have the opportunity to impact their government on the local, state and federal levels — and they can support positive efforts to curb the effects of climate change when they vote on candidates or ballot initiatives. Because the challenge is bigger than our own resources can handle, we will continue to look for new ways to tackle it.

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