How Local Ski Resorts Give Back

How Local Ski Resorts Give Back

March 2, 2023

While you’re out enjoying powder with your ski buddies, local ski resorts are working behind the scenes to give back to our community and address environmental concerns. Their reach extends from supporting local education, providing passes for many nonprofit events for their silent auctions, to programs that provide free access to underserved youth, teachers, and healthcare workers. Environmental initiatives are ongoing and address carbon output, watershed health, and more. 

Currently there is a lot of concern about traffic impacts to Truckee-Tahoe during ski season and community leaders are working with the resorts to come up with alleviations to the problems. So it’s good to take a minute to read about how local ski resorts care about our local community, forests, rivers, and habitats, and they consistently give back through partners, programs, and local events. 

Northstar California 

A subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Northstar California invests in multiple programs and initiatives through the EpicPromise Foundation, which gives back to communities and addresses their carbon footprint. They’re committed to achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030 as part of their EpicPromise Commitment to Zero program. Goals include zero net emissions, zero waste to landfills, and zero net operating impact on forests and habitats.

How are they doing it? They’re focused on eliminating all single-use, guest-facing conventional plastic products across all Vail resorts, offering disposable food and beverage items like cups, utensils, and grab-and-go containers made from plant-based and recycled materials that align with regional waste streams so they can be composted and recycled.

“The environment is our business, and we have a special obligation to protect it. As a growing global company so deeply connected to the outdoors, we are making a commitment to address our most pressing global environmental challenge and protect our local communities and natural resources.” – Rob Katz, Vail Resorts, former chief executive officer and now executive chairperson of the board of directors. 

Their employees and the communities where Vail Resorts operate also operate benefit from EpicPromise programs and initiatives. They are addressing the most urgent needs of mountain communities and supporting their staff with emergency relief grants and educational scholarships.

Focused on four key areas—vulnerable youth, critical community need, on-mountain access, and environmental sustainability— Vail Resorts gives over $13 million in cash and in-kind support to more than 250 nonprofit partners in their mountain communities. 

Locally, EpicPromise supports an exhaustive list of 37 community partners, including Achieve Tahoe, Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation, Tahoe Rim Trail, Family Resource Center of Truckee, Girls on the Run – Sierra, Mountain Area Foundation, Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, and so many more. 

Valuing a “Do Good” attitude, Vail allows their employees volunteer time and opportunities—they donate more than 20,000 hours of company-sponsored volunteer time annually through four specific programs. From planting sugar pines in the Tahoe area to building trails to stocking food banks, Vail Resorts deploys local teams each year to support nonprofit organizations.

They are also part of Excellence in Education’s Skiing for Schools program, providing a limited number of discount lift tickets with all proceeds benefiting the local nonprofit. 

Learn more about Vail’s EpicPromise at 

Palisades Tahoe 

If you’ve lived in the Tahoe area for a few years, you’ve most likely attended a Palisades Tahoe event that benefits a local nonprofit organization. The wildly popular Brews, Jazz, and Funk Fest is an annual event with live music and regional brews that benefits the Humane Society of Truckee Tahoe. This December 31, they hosted a Skate for Scotty New Year’s Eve Fundraiser in memory of Scott Lapp to raise funds for a safe skate park in North Tahoe. 

The ski resort is also the home base for Achieve Tahoe, a local foundation that provides opportunities for adaptive winter sports, building “health, confidence, and independence” in participants experiencing a wide range of disabilities. 

Last March, their Peak to Peak event benefitted the Palisades Tahoe Community Foundation (PTCF), a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers dedicated to supporting young amateur athletes interested in developing skills in snow sports through their participation in a Palisades Tahoe ski or snowboard team. 

Ever heard of a “Green Buck”? Guests that stay and dine at Palisades Tahoe can opt to add $1 to their purchases in support of two local organizations—the Tahoe Fund and Truckee River Watershed Council. The program raises about $30,000 annually and helped restore the first four miles of the Truckee River and remove invasive aquatic weeds from Lake Tahoe.

They support youth as well, charging Creekside Elementary a mere $1 per year to operate at the base of Olympic Valley, saving them thousands of dollars a year. Through SkiDUCK, they help “kids in need shred for free.” And like Northstar, they’re part of Excellence in Education’s Skiing for Schools program. 

According to their website, they were the first North American ski resort to ban the sale of single-use water bottles, setting the standard for other regional resorts. Other environmental efforts include free electric car charging stations, the POW Carpool Parking initiative to prevent greenhouse emissions, and free mountain public transportation through Mountaineer. 

Sugar Bowl / Royal Gorge 

Peak Pledge is Sugar Bowl’s commitment to the environment, working to reduce their impact, conserve natural resources, and become stewards of the forests. They participated in the National Ski Areas Association’s Climate Challenge, which resulted in an inventory of their carbon emissions. They formulated a set of reduction goals with project plans to help them achieve those goals.

After reviewing their resorts’ direct emissions, they found that their most significant carbon footprint contributors are diesel (used to fuel equipment), propane, and electricity. In response, they’ve pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of thirty metric tons of CO2. They plan to invest in fuel-saving and energy-efficient upgrades at the downhill resort and Royal Gorge. 

Sugar Bowl recognizes the substantial threat of wildfire in our region. They are a Firewise community and a member of the broader Placer County Fire Safe Alliance. They also partner with Wilderness Forestry to clear brush, low tree branches, dense tree growth, and other forest fire fuels from the nearby forest. In the summer months, they provide subsidized summer housing for Great Basin Institute field researchers.  

Like other area resorts, they are committed to reducing waste, replacing plastic beverage bottles with aluminum cans, and providing compostable to-go food containers. Bring your own water bottle when you visit, they have seven water bottle refill stations scattered throughout the resort. 

They also partner with community organizations, raising funds through fun events. The annual Poker Run is an entertaining family event, where participants ski and ride in search of Poker Chip Stations all over the mountain. Funds raised benefit the Excellence in Education Foundation. The Banked Slalom event benefits the High Fives Foundation. Other partners include the Sierra Avalanche Center and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

Homewood Mountain Resort

While they may be small, Homewood Mountain Resort makes a big impact! Their annual Pride Ride is a weekend-long event with partners throughout the community that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community. In honor of local healthcare workers, they’ve hosted free skiing and breakfast opportunities. Other initiatives have included free skiing and snowboarding lessons to first-timers, and with Excellence in Education they offered free skiing to educators in 2021. 

They are committed to their impact on the local environment as well. Homewood has served as a working watershed monitoring laboratory, and they partnered with Integrated Environmental Restoration Services (IERS) to publish a Watershed Management Guidebook that provides other ski resorts with valuable resources in watershed management.

“We recognize our responsibility to be good environmental stewards and a community partner. Our efforts, both present and future, aim to keep this in mind,” explains Kevin Mitchell, Homewood Mountain Resort’s General Manager.

Tahoe Donner’s Giving Fund

Tahoe Donner gives back annually through their membership association Tahoe Donner Giving Fund. Each year, they raise money from homeowners to benefit five main areas of interest: arts and culture; education and youth development; environment, conservation, and animal welfare; health and human services; and scholarships. Their Winter Speaker Series is one of their fundraisers for the Giving Fund. In 2021, they awarded $47,500 in grants that benefited Aim High for High School, Arts for the Schools, Sierra Senior Services, Tahoe Food Hub, Truckee Donner Land Trust, Truckee Trails Foundation, and more. 

The next time you carve through your favorite resort, take note of the initiatives they have in place that address environmental concerns. When you get invites to their events, look to see which nonprofit it may be benefiting. With your help, skiing becomes more than just a fun winter sport, it’s also a way to give back.