How To: Go on a Zero Waste Ski Trip


It’s that time of year again! Ski season has really kicked off!

I have been skiing since I was 3, it is one of my favorite activities to do.  I love that each day can be different – I can ski with different people, different places, I can ski for an hour or two, or a solid 8 hours. I can ski on the easy trails and have a relaxing day, or I can ski the hardest terrain I can find and really push myself.  It makes me happy, relaxed, challenged, and scared all at the same time, and as a bonus it’s a super good workout!

However, since I have spent a lot of time at ski resorts, I have noticed how much trash can be generated from a day on the trails (it’s a lot).

Unfortunately, some of it is unavoidable like the ski passes – a definitely unrecyclable sticker and metal piece that I’m sure ends up in the trash. I don’t have many of these because I usually get a season pass which is just one credit card piece of plastic a year, but I always keep them as mementos so I’ve never thought about their proper disposal. It would be awesome if resorts could figure out a more sustainable way! However, for day passes, I would say try to make things out of them like ornaments to remember your ski days that year, or put them in scrapbooks, or memory boxes. And if not, recycle the metal piece at least!

The rest though can be eliminated!

Lets start with the easiest…


I always bring my own lunch, which I will get to in a second, but if you’re staying at a resort and have no place to store food or no refrigerator and must buy food, then at least bring your own container! I like lightweight stainless steel containers.  Just ask them to put your food in the container, I’m sure they would be willing. At the very least, bring your own reusable water bottle and utensils/reusable napkin to avoid excess waste, and look for compostable materials and a compost trash can for the rest.

However, food available at ski resorts is always super expensive, so I bring my own!  I usually pack a sandwich in my life without plastic square tin:


some trail mix and dried mango that I buy in bulk in a reusable cotton bag, or a reusable plastic bag (i have these:

Granola bars: the lifeblood of skiiers, can pack in your jacket for chair lift snacks. However, super wasteful! I make my own granola bars (very infrequently, since you get so many out of one batch!), keep them in a big tupperware, and then take them out one by one as I need them and wrap each in a small beeswax wrap. Just as small as a regular granola bar, and just as convenient! When I’m finished I just wrap up the little wrap and put it back in my pocket and wash it when I get home.  If unavoidable, at least choose granola bars whose wrappers can be sent to terracycle, like clif bars! The ski resorts near me have terracycle boxes in the lodges for wrappers like this.  

Water/drinks: I have a reusable water bottle I bring with me, and if I’m getting a midday beer, I am sure to ask for it in glass. Easy switches.

And now for the harder switches.


Disposable hand and toe warmers are, unfortunately, the greatest things ever. However, even though they are made with fairly environmental ingredients, it’s still better to opt for reusables. There are a couple options:

Rechargeable hand warmers. I wish I had personal reviews for these, but Colorado doesn’t really get cold enough for me to have needed any yet.  Here is the highest rated one, which I want to buy if I ever find I need these. They last for 5-6 hours, which is plenty long for a day of skiing

Then there are ones that you fill with lighter fluid (a zippo) that can last for over 19 hours, which are excellent for things like backpacking and backcountry skiing trips that are a lot longer.

For toe warmers, there are these, I don’t know how well they work…

or if you have lots of money you can get these!:

I’ve seen some at ski shops that cost around 125 for rechargeable toe warmers. If you ski a ton each season and always use disposable toe warmers, this might be a good investment!


Lastly, I want to discuss clothing.  By now we all know that synthetic clothing is made of plastic fibers, and plastic fibers getting into our oceans and waterways from washing them is a huge issue.  I suggest sticking with natural fibers.  I cannot say I do this, but this is entirely because since I’ve been skiing for about 20 years I have a big stash of ski clothes from before I was aware of this issue and since I rarely wash them and only use them half the year, haven’t found a good enough reason to replace them.

HOWEVER, when I say natural fibers. I do NOT mean cotton. Cotton does not dry easily, and when you sweat from physical activity in the cold, your clothes will stay damp, and then when you cool back down, that wetness will suck all the heat from your body.  This is dangerous, never wear cotton into the woods.

By natural fibers, I mean wool and silk. I will write a whole blog post on natural fibers in outdoor clothing, but for now look for base layers made of silk or wool, and mid layers made of wool. You’ll be just as warm!

If, like me, you have a ton of old clothes that you are still getting a lot of use out of, then just try to wash them as little as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever, or ever will, wash my ski jacket (it’s just a shell). I wash my base layers minimally because I’m usually just cold when I ski so I don’t sweat and they don’t get very dirty, and my ski pants are black, so they’ll look clean forever!

But aren’t ski resorts bad for the environment?

Yep! and this is an issue.

They are making strides, though!

My advice if you love to ski and care about the environment? Choose to only go to ski resorts that are actively trying to reduce their environmental impact. Vote with your dollar! And try as best you can to reduce YOUR overall impact. Eliminate your waste, carpool to the mountain, don’t take private jets to Aspen…

Keep enjoying the activities you love, and just try to find ways to make them a little less wasteful!

Happy Skiing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s