April 22, 2021. Happy Earth Day!
When your industry has been put on pause by a worldwide pandemic, it is a great time to rebuild with intention and thoughtfulness. This winter, after the lockdown in Ontario left our team with some time on our hands, we asked ourselves what we could do better in our quest to provide exceptional ski experiences.
It seems to me that very few people arrive in the ski industry on a straight path. The backgrounds are varied, and the stories are delightful. Considering the indirect path that brought me to Skican, I find myself in good company. I have an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and a Master's Degree in Urban Planning and have long been passionate about thriving and healthy communities. For over two decades, I pursued opportunities that allowed me to travel, work and volunteer around the world and in Canada. I was lit up by giving back, and contributing to a world I could believe in.
In 2009, I had an opportunity to work on a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Hamlet of Arviat in Nunavut. There, on the shores of Hudson Bay, I heard firsthand from elders about how climate change is impacting northern communities. It was a pivotal experience that motivated me to leave a career in consulting to start Project Neutral, a neighbourhood-based, data-driven initiative to support the transition of communities to become carbon neutral. What began as a volunteer-driven, Toronto-based organisation gradually expanded to other cities in the GTA, and 11 years later is an award-winning leader in benchmarking and community engagement.
In 2015, I was presented with the opportunity to lead Skican into a new era of ski tourism. Recognizing an opportunity to engage with a community of passionate outdoor enthusiasts, I threw myself into learning about all things travel-related. For the past six years, the pace has been hectic but wildly rewarding.
As skiers, we love winter and recognize that climate change is impacting snow cover and the length of the ski season. Climate change is a worldwide challenge that requires a global and urgent response. Global air travel causes approximately 2% of the world's carbon emissions, linked directly with climate change. To be part of the solution, we can reduce or avoid emissions wherever possible, switch to environmentally sustainable options, and, where necessary, offset emissions.
When it came time to evaluate our impact on the local community, we started from a good place. Skican is a primarily home-based organisation. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions related to our office activities are quite low. We were able to further minimize our carbon footprint by being a Bullfrog Power client since 2018. But it took the pandemic for us to really focus on the impact of the ski trips we build for our clients.
This winter, in the doldrums of the lockdown, with worry a constant, juxtaposed with the invaluable gift of all things slowing down and an abundance of time, our team decided to put a stake in the ground. We asked ourselves what we were not willing to compromise on post-pandemic.
Introducing Skican's approach to Thoughtful Travel.
Lower impact. Airlines have made progress in reducing emissions and exploring lower-emission alternative jet fuel. The International Air Travel Agency reports a reduction of 54.3 CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer, or 11 billion tonnes of CO2 avoided since 1990 – however, for those emissions that cannot currently be avoided or reduced, carbon offsetting is an important part of the way forward. This winter Skican launched a partnership with LESS Emissions, Canada’s first independently audited flight offset program, to purchase the highest quality carbon offsets to reduce the environmental impact of our clients’ flights.
Respectful. Travel allows us to engage with new people and experiences. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is not to take these experiences for granted. Thoughtful travel is about taking the time to smell the roses, to be curious, humble, and patient. To recognize that as travelers, we are guests, and it is our responsibility to be respectful of the mountain communities we visit.
Proactive. Operating a travel company during a pandemic forced us to adjust the way we do business, to both protect our clients, respect obligations to industry partners and team members, and support recovery efforts of the ski industry. In addition to taking a multi-pronged approach to educating our clients about the risk of travel during the pandemic, we rewrote our payment policies to provide greater transparency and flexibility and are committed to continually improving on this.
Inclusive. Just last week I was inspired by a call to action from Jen Gurecki, founder of Coalition Snow, who was the closing speaker at the ski industry’s annual Mountain Travel Symposium. She pointed out that the overwhelming portrayal of white-adrenalin-seeking men does not reflect the growing diversity of skiing. More than that, she pointed out that these images do not invite diversity. At Skican, we have heard the call and are committed to sharing the story of diversity in sport, and in skiing specifically.
Unapologetic. We are unapologetic about our commitment to travel, to you, our clients, and to our partners, team, and community. During the pandemic, we have all suffered losses but gained an appreciation for what we have right now. As a female-owned and led company, we are diverse and compassionate. Your experience is our passion. 2020/2021 was the year that travel was stressful, or non-existent. Let’s make 2021/22 the year of Thoughtful Travel. If you would like to join the conversation please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have read to the end, thank you. Above all, we are so excited to build mountain experiences that will ignite your ski spirit and fit your lifestyle. We are fine-tuning our sales and service daily and we appreciate you inviting us to be part of your memory-making. And we are committed to being part of sustainable travel. We have the grit, and so do you.
Let's get this pandemic chapter under wraps and get out there, together.