The Colorado mountain town of Vail has been certified as a sustainable mountain resort destination, recognizing its efforts to preserve and protect the natural environment that draws in millions of visitors each year.

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Vail, Colorado is the first sustainable resort town.

The designation comes courtesy of Sustainable Travel International, a non-profit organization. It makes Vail the first place in the world to be certified according to the organization's Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination standard, which aims to help destinations “balance tourism growth with local needs to protect nature and wildlife, improve the well-being of residents, and preserve cultural heritage”.

With its massive Rocky Mountain peaks, Vail is a hugely popular ski and snowboard destination. But the town of only 5500 permanent residents welcomes nearly three million visitors each year, meaning it sees a massive influx during the winter months. The new Mountain IDEAL standard is based on specific sustainable guidelines for such resort towns, which have different constraints placed on sustainability efforts due to the seasonal flux of tourists and employees.

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A athletic snowboarder jumping off a cliff on a sunny powder day in Colorado.

“Recognizing that mountain destinations are acutely threatened by climate change, waning freshwater resources, and seasonal tourism peaks, Vail has made important strides in balancing the needs of its delicate ecosystem with the wants of travellers and the local community,” said Geoff Bolan, CEO of Sustainable Travel International. The standard is designed to recognize mountain resort destinations as they tackle unique issues like mitigating the impact of overtourism, promoting safe recreation on public lands, preserving scenic views and watersheds, creating year-round employment and affordable housing, and more. The recognition comes after years of effort from the town, which has included sustainability training for local businesses. Vail will have to monitor and improve its practices to maintain the standard.

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