November 28, 2023

Getting to know the Collaborative – Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones, Director of Social Responsibility at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation, has been an integral member of the CAP Collaborative since its inception. She was part of the project management team that oversaw the initial Routt County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and drafting of the Routt County Climate Action Plan.

She now serves as one of four at-large community members and Treasurer of the CAP Collaborative Board. She also Chairs the CAP Transportation Working Group and participates in the CAP Economy Working Group. These experiences provide a comprehensive perspective on the evolution of the CAP Collaborative which she shares in this month’s ‘Getting to Know the Collaborative’ column.

1) What is your role in the CAP Collaborative and how did you get involved?

 I serve as a community representative on the CAP Collaborative Board.  I was part of the project management team that oversaw the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (2019) and Climate Action Plan (2021).   I love having been involved from the beginning and seeing the ideas, provided by the community and local experts, grow into emissions reduction strategies and tangible climate actions.

2) Why does the CAP matter to you and why should Routt County residents care? 

As the Director of Social Responsibility for the Steamboat ski area, a lot of my work is focused on climate action. This means reducing CO2 emissions associated with our operations and ensuring that we are prepared for the impacts of climate change (for example snow variability and increased risk of wildfire).  The CAP provides emission reduction strategies that can guide our work at the resort and provide opportunities to partner with the City and County on projects that have large emissions reduction impacts.

3) While implementation of all the proposed CAP recommendations will be necessary to meet our CAP carbon emission reduction goals, are there any recommendations in particular you feel are most urgent and impactful? 

Implementation of all the recommendations will be necessary to meet our community’s carbon emissions reduction goals.  However, I believe that strategies in the energy and transportation sectors will have the largest measurable emissions reduction in the shortest amount of time.  I also think that strategies that have strong co-benefits will be the most impactful and easier to get buy-in from stakeholders.  For example, creating a regional transportation authority and growing public transportation will not only lower emissions but will also reduce traffic, improve air quality, and provide more options for those who are dependent on public transportation.

4) In July, Alterra Mountain Company, parent company of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., announced it has adopted a sustainability policy that includes the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030. What steps are Steamboat Resort taking to help meet that goal?

I am proud of Alterra’s Forward Stance and our science based targets around emissions reduction and transition to renewable energy.  It is a great guide for the resort and holds us accountable for measurable emissions reduction.  

The ski area has a large carbon footprint.  We use a lot of electricity and fuel in operations.  To meet our goals, we are working to shift our electricity to renewable and creating an inventory and plan for transitioning our fleets to electric.  We are also working on energy efficiency projects (building automation, LED switch outs, and programmable thermostats), improving waste diversion (eliminating plastics and reducing contamination), sustainable procurement policies, and studying alternative to fossil fuels for snowmelt in our future development of the Gondola Transit Center.

5) Climate change is a complex and oftentimes overwhelming problem. What keeps you hopeful that we as individuals and a community can take meaningful action to limit the impacts of regional climate change?  

When I first started doing this work, back in 2010, we couldn’t even say climate change or climate action without backlash.  I know that sometimes action can feel slow, but we have come a long way!  That all municipalities within Routt County adopted the CAP is wonderful progress.  

When I feel overwhelmed by the work, I get outside. Playing outside in our beautiful valley is not only energizing, but it keeps me motivated to continue work on these critical issues.