The Golden Eagle Awards, overseen in a partnership between SKI and the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), are the ski industry’s most prestigious honor for recognizing resort environmental programs and projects.
"When SKI founded this program in 1993, our goal was to recognize resorts that were actively addressing environmental issues, hoping to encourage other resorts to do the same and also to help publicize templates for similar projects across the industry", said Allen Crolius, SKI’s publisher and vice president 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 vital 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). The Hero of Sustainability Award is designed to honor an individual making a difference in resort environmental performance.
Soda Springs in California won the Golden Eagle Award in the small ski area category. In November of 2015, Soda Springs launched the Soda Springs Recycled Water Initiative. The ski area will lead by example in being the first resort in California to make snow using recycled water. This innovation is the result of a shared vision and partnership with Donner Summit Public Utility District (DSPUD). The use of recycled water will preserve potable, surface, and groundwater supplies, and provide an alternate and sustainable source for snowmaking. Additionally, the snow that is made is effective water storage in the winter that is released back into the ground and surface water flows as the snow melts, benefitting the South Yuba River. Soda Springs invested significant capital to connect to the DSPUD facilities and install the new system, and 100 percent of energy used for the new snowmaking system is offset through the purchase of renewable energy credits. These investments will generate a great mountain product and enhance guest experiences while conserving the region’s valuable potable water supply. Click here for more information.
Gore Mountain in New York took the top environmental honors in the medium-sized ski area category for consistent leadership on environmental stewardship and enhancing the guest experience in creative ways that help both the planet and its business. Gore’s signature project was the signing of a 25-year solar energy contract for a 5.325 MW system that will offset 85 percent of Gore’s annual electrical budget. The first year’s savings for the project is estimated to be $213,043, and the cumulative savings is projected to be $9,985,787. Gore also continued its long-term investment in high-efficiency snowmaking, introduced service of locally produced foods, offset energy use through strategic trail modifications, added two “recycled” trails to the map, and made several other environmentally-friendly enhancements that guests can see, enjoy, and learn about every day. Gore Mountain has demonstrated that a growing resort (its acreage and uphill capacity have increased 131 percent and 142 percent respectively over the last 20 years) can be sustainable and profitable, and serves as an industry model for sustainable growth. For more information about Gore Mountain’s environmental initiatives, click here.
Aspen Skiing Co. in Colorado won the Golden Eagle Award in the large resort category for leveraging action on climate change with key audiences and in partnership with Protect Our Winters (POW), a nonprofit dedicated to engaging the outdoor sports community in the fight against climate change. This season, all 3,600 new Aspen/Snowmass uniforms featured the POW logo on the sleeve to spark conversation among guests and employees about climate change and how they can act in meaningful ways to solve the problem. Aspen trained every employee in climate science, communication, and the mission of POW prior to the season, and included effective collateral materials in support of the initiative on chairlifts and in hotels. Aspen’s partnership with POW has resulted in great success, including influencing governors in ski states to support the President’s Clean Power Plan, bringing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to the X Games to elevate awareness of EPA’s role in climate among youth, and helping unite the snowsports industry on advocacy on climate solutions. For more information on the Aspen/POW partnership, visit www.protectourwinters.org and www.aspensnowmass.com.
Kristyn Lingenfelter is a Hero of Sustainability for her efforts in implementing Squaw Valley’s Drink Mountain Tap program, a resort-wide ban of bottled water sales at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. This initiative involved installing more than 20 water refill stations, offering guests a new, reusable BPA-free water bottle with beautiful mountain imagery on it sold at the same price point as bottled water ($3), and removing bottled water from Squaw|Alpine owned dining and retail outlets. The initiative inspires guests to rethink their daily habits by choosing reusable products over single-use items, while simultaneously reducing the total amount of plastic waste generated by the resort each year. From the last two season season averages of bottled water sold, Squaw|Alpine Meadows will remove 28,000 single-use plastic bottles from its waste stream annually. In 10 years, this will add up to more than 300,000 single-use plastic bottles and more than 8 metric tons of CO2 emissions saved from the production of 300K plastic bottles. In addition to this program, Lingenfelter was instrumental in strengthening the resort’s partnership with POW and raising awareness on the effects of climate change by developing the POW Climate Cabin and POW Special Feature Wall at the Patagonia store in the resort’s Village. For more information on Squaw|Alpine Meadows’ sustainability initiatives, visitwww.squawalpine.com and www.protectourwinters.org.