As bus riders grabbed their skis and stepped off toward the lifts last Friday, they were met with a pleasant surprise — a free beanie and a thumbs up from enthusiastic people heading the POW Day event. POW Day, which began last year through a partnership with Protect Our Winters (POW), Ski Utah, and local resorts Snowbird and Alta, was such a success that they decided to expand it this season to Powder Mountain and Sundance.
For the Cottonwood resorts, the day was representative of a bigger initiative taking place all season long. Snowbird’s new program, RIDE (Reducing Individual Driving for the Environment), incentivizes carpoolers and bus riders, said Hilary Arens, Snowbird’s Director of Water Resources and Environmental Programs.
Arens knows what all skiers want: “Time, money, and powder,” she said.
Those carpooling with three or more skiers or riders receive VIP parking close to the lifts by Entry 1 and Entry 2. Besides proximity to fresh tracks, they also receive a punch card that, after 10 times carpooling, they can redeem for a transferrable half-priced Snowbird day pass. Monthly, Snowbird will select twenty season pass holders who ride UTA to receive a half-priced day pass as well.
Carpoolers participating in RIDE also enter a raffle, in which eight people are selected for a once in a lifetime early-up ride on Gadzoom. One bus rider and one employee are chosen for this event too, which will take place a few times a season.
Snowbird teamed up with POW, Breathe Utah, Canyon Transportation, and UTA to design and launch the RIDE program and, soon, similar benefits will spring up at Alta, Brighton, and Solitude ski resorts. Snowbird worked with UTA to improve the frequency and reliability of their buses, and season passes double as a UTA pass. This is a cost Snowbird incurs, said Brian Brown, director of marketing for Snowbird, but any extra incentive to reduce traffic in the canyon is worth it.
“We believe we can make a difference, even if it’s a small one,” he said. “I am 100 percent confident that over time, this program is going to pay off and we are going to have less people driving up the canyons.”
At POW Day, that difference was calculated at a reduction of 24,197 lbs of CO2 for the four participating resorts, according to Paul Marshall, spokesperson for Ski Utah.
“With a tree absorbing an average of 48 lbs of CO2 annually, POW Day saved as much CO2 as 184,000 trees would absorb in one day. With a healthy forest density of 75 trees per acre, this is equivalent to 2,455 acres of trees, or all of Snowbird,” Marshall said.
This was the first year Ski Utah tracked results, which they did thanks to people registering via the SNOCRU app, and they hope to increase those numbers each year. But, there’s no need to wait for next POW Day to make a difference; each time riders carpool to Snowbird with three or more people, they are keeping 40 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
“There is a carbon fee to come ski. To come up these canyons, to run the chairlifts and the buses,” Arens said. “So, the best thing that we ask of our employees and guests is to offset that by coming up together and reducing Snowbird’s carbon footprint.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Segal