Vail Resorts raising money for forest projects |

Vail Resorts raising money for forest projects

Vail Daily file photo/Kathy LippertForests around Vail and other sections of the White River National Forest will benefit from money for conservation projects being collected by Vail Resorts this winter.

VAIL ” Starting this winter, Vail Resorts will tack a dollar onto sales of season passes, online lift tickets and hotel rooms to fund forest conservation projects, the company said Thursday.

“It’s very consistent with our philosophy, which is we’re looking for ways to communicate with our guests about the environment,” said Rob Katz, Vail Resorts’ chief executive officer.

The partnership between the resort company and the National Forest Foundation seeks to raise $600,000 this winter for projects in the White River National Forest and Lake Tahoe forests.

The announcement comes on the heels of the resort company’s recent decision to go 100 percent wind power.

Customers will be able to elect not to add the extra dollar for the program.

“Whether they give the dollar or don’t give the dollar, they’re going to have to be educated about what it is,” Katz said.

Katz said he expects a participation rate of more than 75 percent.

The National Forest Foundation will give 50 cents for each dollar Vail Resorts raises. The foundation is a Missoula, Mont.-based nonprofit created by Congress to help improve national forests.

“Vail has really raised the bar in terms of the spirit of cooperative conservation,” said Bill Possiel, president of the National Forest Foundation.

The money will go to nonprofits for projects in the White River National Forest, the home of the company’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts.

Money collected from customers in the Lake Tahoe area, where Vail Resorts owns Heavenly, will go to projects in the national forests around Lake Tahoe.

The foundation has awarded grants in the past to the Youth Conservation Corps, Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness and the Continental Divide Trail Alliance for local projects. A competitive process for divvying up the money will happen next spring, Possiel said.

The projects could end up helping with stream restoration, wildlife habitats or recreation.

The Vail Resorts program is three to four times more than the National Forest Foundation’s next largest fundraising program of this kind, Vail Resorts said. The deal lasts through this winter but could be renewed next year.

Sloan Shoemaker, director of Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, said he applauds Vail Resorts’ decision but said it highlights the “chronic underfunding” of the Forest Service and the increasing burden that the community must shoulder to maintain the forest.

“It’s not the right solution to the problem,” he said. “It’s a good stop-gap ” a positive proactive attempt to stick a finger in the dike.”

Katz announced the program at Colorado Ski and Golf in Aurora. The store is holding its annual Ski-Rex sale this weekend, and the resort sells its Front

Range-skier-targeted passes there. Merchant pass buyers will also have the opportunity to participate in the program.

Katz said the program is a good business decision that appeals to values of customers.

“The guests will be proud of being part of a program where they can direcly affect the forest,” Katz said.

Vail Resorts stock closed at 37.62, up .08 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange, after the late-day announcement.

Vail Resorts

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