The Golden Eagle Awards, overseen in a partnership between SKI and the National Ski Areas Association, are the ski industry’s most prestigious honor for recognizing resort environmental programs and projects. "When SKI founded this program in 1993, we wanted to encourage sustainability and recognize resorts for their commitment and proven results to environmental programs", said Andy Bigford, SKI’s publisher and the general manager of Active Interest Media’s Mountain Group. "It’s gratifying to see how far the industry has come in 20 years, particularly with today’s collective focus on addressing climate change".
The resort awards are divided into three categories: small (fewer than 200,000 annual skier/boarder visits), medium (200,000 to 500,000 visits) and large (more than 500,000 visits).
For 2014, SKI also launched the Hero of Sustainability Award, designed to honor an individual making a difference:
- Proctor Academy, a private school in New Hampshire, won the Golden Eagle Award in the small ski area category. Proctor has adopted a school-wide Environmental Mission Statement, which includes purchasing all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. The Academy aggressively applied its mission to the operation of its competition-oriented Proctor Ski Area, which includes alpine, Nordic jumping, and cross-country trails. Proctor invested $376,000 in upgrades, including a switch from diesel to electric powered compressors, the purchase and installation of 21 HKD SV10 Impulse Tower Guns and a Turbocristal Fan Gun, and the addition of six additional GE PF400 Power Flood Lights, bringing the total to 42. End result: a total reduction of 140 tons of CO2e, equivalent to the annual emissions from 26.5 passenger cars.
- Arapahoe Basin in Colorado took the top environmental honors in the medium-sized ski area category for its significant waste reduction efforts. Arapahoe Basin is a founding member of the ski industry’s Climate Challenge, and has set a goal of reducing its overall GHG emissions by 3 percent below 2009/10 baseline levels by 2020. While Arapahoe Basin has implemented significant energy savings initiatives to help meet that goal, it has also demonstrated that its robust waste reduction program made a huge difference in reducing its carbon footprint. As a direct result of the ski area’s composting and recycling programs, A-Basin has kept 115,000 pounds of waste out of landfills, resulting in a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 57 MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions), or nearly a third of the ski area’s reduction target for the Climate Challenge.
- Steamboat Ski and Resort in Colorado won the Golden Eagle Award in the large resort category for making sustainability a cornerstone of its most significant on-mountain improvement project in nearly a decade. In constructing its $5 million Four Points on-mountain restaurant, located at 9,716 feet with panormaic views, Steamboat incorporated LEED principles throughout, from low-flow fixtures to low-energy insulated windows, composting, automatic CO2 sensors in the HVAC system, and LED and fluorescent indoor light fixtures. For the addition of night skiing, the resort installed state-of-the-art Ultra-Tech Lighting, which limits light pollution and saves energy. In upgrading its snowmaking on the Heavenly Daze trail, Steamboat installed a new main line that in conjunction with HKD tower guns cut energy consumption by 30 percent and also reduced water useage. The resort’s new Prinroth Beast and Bison grooming machines decrease fuel consumption and increase efficiencies. Meanwhile, the resort continued its Healthy Forest focus by removing 23 acres of dead lodge pole pines, utlizing a helicpter to limit the ground footprint while also reducing soil erosion and sedimentation in streams.
- Maura Olivos: The Alta Environmental Center in Utah was created in 2008 to build on the ski area’s 70-year heritage of conservation. Through Maura’s leadership, the Center has improved sustainability practices at the ski area, enabled research and collaboration with partners, and helped spread the word of sustainability to guests. Alta’s General Manager Onno Wieringa stated "through her persistent efforts, Maura has raised the bar on bringing environmental care into Alta’s operations and serving as a valuable model for all departments of the ski area". SKI’s Andy Bigford added, "We wanted to put a face on the amazing behind-the-scenes sustainability efforts that take place at ski areas, and Maura is the true embodiment. She’s the face of Alta’s Environmental Center, inspiring everyone to make changes toward sustainability big and small".
Established in 1993, the Golden Eagle Awards for Environmental Excellence recognize the environmental achievements of ski areas. The awards are sponsored by SKI Magazine. Judges for this year’s awards include: Andy Bigford and Greg Ditrinco, SKI Magazine; Tiffany Beal, International Mountain Bicycling Association; Judy Dorsey, Brendle Group; Ryan Mayo, CLIF Bar & Company; Geraldine Link, NSAA; Don Dressler, USDA – Forest Service; and Kirk Mills, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).