Resort refocuses efforts on sustainability after finding itself falling short, COO says
Steamboat Resort creates new sustainability department, taps local environmentalist as director
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After recently reexamining its priorities, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. found itself falling short on sustainability efforts.
So, the resort decided it was time to “do something big.”
Rob Perlman, chief operating officer of the resort, said, this week, in seeking to make a real impact in the resort, community and industry, the resort needed to create “tactical, meaningful programs and practices.”
That thinking led the resort to create a new department solely dedicated to sustainability, the first formal of such at Steamboat Resort. It marked the first major employer in the Yampa Valley to show such a high level of commitment to sustainability, according to the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.
Primary focuses for the new department include the development and implementation of sustainability practices in addition to improving the resort’s operational environmental performance and furthering goals related to climate and energy.
The first step in the process, which is still unfolding, was hiring someone to lead the new department.
Sarah Jones of Steamboat Springs was hired this week to do just that, becoming the first director of sustainability and community engagement at the resort.
“We are thrilled to bring on Sarah Jones at a senior level as the first director to lead our sustainability initiatives,” Perlman said.
Prior to accepting the job, Jones served as executive director of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, a position she has held since 2012.
“Sarah (Jones) has grown (the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council) into a highly credible organization and is a leader in all facets of sustainability,” said Scott Conner, president of the council’s board of directors. “We wish her well in her new position and look forward to developing a strong connection with the ski area and partnering on projects to reduce our community’s collective carbon footprint.
“The entire Yampa Valley is better off because of her.”
Starting her new role with the resort on Sept. 30, Jones will begin to hire a team, develop programming, create strategic planning and identify opportunities for the resort’s sustainability efforts.
It was recommendations made by the council earlier this year that spurred the resort into developing a sustainability department. The council created an environmental inventory for the resort and formed sustainability suggestions for its entire business line.
“What they really needed was somebody there to collect all the data, understand where they are and formulate a logical sustainability plan for their future across their entire business,” Conner explained. “They’re doing something now that no one else has committed to doing to date.”
Conner said Jones’ departure from the council will leave “a huge hole,” but provides an opportunity to reset and rethink what the council needs. Conner will resign from his position as board president to become interim executive director until January 2020. A search for a permanent replacement is expected to begin this fall.
“I am looking forward to building Steamboat’s environmental programming and laying a groundwork for the resort to continue to grow and respect our environment,” Jones said. “The foundation for sustainability practices already exists here, and now I get to dive in and boost our efforts to really make an impact both internally and in our community.”
As Jones indicated, a focus on sustainability isn’t exactly new to the resort, according to Loryn Kasten Duke, director of communications for the resort. Historically, the resort had sustainability programming, including an award-winning zero-waste initiative.
“It’s never really been institutionalized at the resort,” Duke said. “It was more certain employees digging in where they found areas of opportunity. If an employee left, then that program fell by the wayside.
“We never really committed to exploring, identifying and committing to the opportunities.”
The former zero-waste program is a prime example of that.
Duke said the resort would have a better picture in the next few weeks of what the new sustainability program will look like.
“The ski resort has done a lot of things and, like every organization, you’re never done around sustainability efforts,” Conner said. “There’s always more that you can do.”
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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