Sustainable Destination

Sustainable Destination

Vail Certified as a Sustainable Destination through the Mountain IDEAL

Vail partnered with Walking Mountains Science Center and Sustainable Travel International to become the first sustainable mountain resort destination in the world and the first certified sustainable destination in the United States certified by a GSTC-Accredited certifying body, Green Destinations.

Vail achieved certification under the Mountain IDEAL standard in 2017 and was recertified in 2021. Vail has also been honored to receive the Global Destinations Top 100 Award in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 through Green Destinations. In 2020 Vail was awarded as the Best of the Americas at the 2020 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations Award at ITB Berlin for improvement on waste diversion. 

Like many mountain resort destinations, Vail’s economy is highly dependent on tourism. While the town is home to just under 5,500 local residents, it welcomes 2.8 million guests annually. Since the ski area’s founding in 1962, and the Town’s incorporation in 1966, Vail has focused on balancing tourism growth with local environmental and community needs.

It has taken many years to work towards the sustainable destination certification, which builds upon Vail’s history of environmental conservation. Notable past achievements include the protection of open space being written into the Town Charter of 1966, the creation of the Vail Nature Center and Preserve in the 1970’s, and the creation of the 1% Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) in the 1980’s which improves parks and open space for recreation opportunities and further supports environmentally sustainable practices. More recent achievements include its proactive approach to restoring the water quality of Gore Creek and Vail Resort’s ambitious commitment to a zero net operating footprint by 2030.



The Vail Destination includes the boundaries of the Gore Creek watershed (Town of Vail, the extent of the Vail Mountain ski area and a portion of the White River National Forest), a total of 69,987 acres.

A Community Initiative By



Mountain IDEAL is an international sustainability standard and certification program for mountain resort communities recognized by the Global Sustainability Tourism Council (GSTC). The Mountain IDEAL includes criteria based on many other accepted sustainability principles and guidelines including those developed with input from the U.N. World Tourism Organization. The criteria within Mountain IDEAL provides a framework used for education and outreach, economic development, policy development, action planning, measurement, evaluation, and as a basis for destination-level certification by one of three qualified auditors.

For certification, Vail must meet and maintain progress on 44 sustainability criteria including: environmental stewardship, year-round economic development, cultural heritage protection, low impact transportation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, public health and safety, workforce housing, climate adaptation and sustainability education.

Click here to learn more about the Mountain IDEAL standard.

While much great work has been done in many of these areas, Vail will always have room to improve along the journey to sustainability. If you Love Vail, please join us on this journey and embrace the Mountain IDEAL as we strive for recertification in 2020. Share the sustainable destination story and if you have ideas to improve upon sustainability here in Vail, we are always open to new and innovative ideas!



Sustainable Destinations Resources:

The Vail destination has implemented the Mountain IDEAL standard as a guideline for sustainable development in a mountain resort community. In part Vail has compiled several documents to provide guidance for sustainable destination management. Visit these resources for more information.

Destination Strategy and Action Plan Overview
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Attraction Protection Plan
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Register of Risks
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