Vail Aims to Become First Certified Sustainable Destination in the U.S.

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Walking Mountains Sustainability

Walking Mountains Sustainability Email SignatureThe Town of Vail and Walking Mountains Science Center invite the public to give feedback on the Vail Sustainable Destination Project during a free lunch and open house this Thursday, July 28 from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM at the Grand View on the third level of the Lionshead Welcome Center. The Town of Vail has a long history of environmental stewardship and sustainability including the protection of open space in its Town Charter, the creation of the Vail Nature Center and Preserve in the early 1970s, and more recently its proactive approach to restoring the water quality of Gore Creek.

The free lunch and open house event will engage the public in providing feedback on the destination certification criteria as the criteria can apply to all mountain resort communities. “We are creating a standard that Vail and other mountain towns can adopt so that we can all grow and develop in a responsible and sustainable manner. The increasing impacts of our success in promoting mountain tourism has a double-edged sword that requires proactive collaborative planning for the future,” said Walking Mountains Science Center founder and Vail Town Council member, Kim Langmaid.


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Vail is aiming to become the first certified sustainable destination in the United States under criteria from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, an NGO established by the United Nations Environment Programme and several other global partners in response to growth in tourism and the desire to foster increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices. The destination certification criteria include 40 best practices that any tourism destination should aspire to reach. Another global organization, Sustainable Travel International, is also a partner on the Vail project.

“The repercussions of not doing something substantial right now are going to affect us very much in the future,” said Susie Tjossem, Executive Director at Colorado’s Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame. “Getting out in front of this movement is paramount. If you don’t have these kinds of programs in place, or ways to measure and show ‘yes we are’ sustainable, then we’re going to be left behind.”

The Vail Sustainable Destination Project began when the Environment Committee of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships was tasked to deliver an innovative legacy project. As a first step, the Environment Committee launched the Actively Green Sustainable Business Training and Certification Program which continues to support businesses and other organizations and is coordinated by Walking Mountains Science Center. The Actively Green program supports the larger destination certification project and provides local businesses and employees avenues to participate along the journey to make Vail a sustainable destination.

“Vail is a great example of the progress and success that destinations can have when they harness the power of travel and tourism as a force for good,” added Brian Mullis, CEO and Founder of Sustainable Travel International.

Among the 40 certification criteria for destinations are sustainability indicators that address things like tourism infrastructure, planning for climate change, protection of sensitive environments and wildlife, affordable housing, light and noise pollution, programs for youth and seniors, stakeholder participation, cultural heritage protection, and sustainability education.

“It’s going to become increasingly difficult for Vail to distinguish itself from other mountain resorts simply though the quality of its ski mountain. This whole area of environmental sustainability can become a positive distinguishing feature of the resort, for visitors and residents alike. It’s a wonderful project that can significantly enhance Vail’s future if this becomes a true, community wide effort,” said long-time Vail resident and Walking Mountains’ board member Alan Danson.

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About Walking Mountains Science Center
Walking Mountains Science Center’s mission is to awaken a sense of wonder and inspire environmental stewardship and sustainability through natural science education. Visit or call 970.827.9725 for more information.