Monday, May 8, 2017

SKI Magazine Announces Golden Eagle Awards

SKI Magazine has honored three ski areas—Berkshire East Mountain Resort, Mass., Taos Ski Valley, NM, and Squaw Valley I Alpine Meadows, Calif.—with the 2017 Golden Eagle Awards for Environmental Excellence. In addition, SKI named Onno Wieringa of Alta Ski Area in Utah as the “Hero of Sustainability” honoree for 2017.
The Golden Eagle Awards, overseenin 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, raising the bar, and encouraging other resorts to follow suit by serving as models for similar projects across the industry", said Andy Hawk, managing director of Active Interest Media’s Mountain Group. "It’s amazing how far the ski industry has come in 24 years, particularly with today’s 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.
Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Massachusetts won the Golden Eagle Award in the small ski area category. Berkshire East produces more electricity than it uses on an annual net basis. In 2012, the ski area was the first in the world to power 100 percent of its operation with a 900 kWh wind turbine and a 500 kWh solar field. In the past year, it launched an energy efficiency program, including installation of 500 LED lights and snowmaking and pumping upgrades, totaling $3 million in investment. These renewable energy and energy efficiency measures result in about 2.6 million pounds of CO2 reduced annually. In addition, the resort installed a wood burning system that uses wood cut from the resort’s forest management and glading work, and a sawmill to produce finished lumber from blow-down timber for construction or replacement of buildings. The resort opened a Renewable Energy Classroom in 2016 to host students, groups, and organizations so they could learn about the basics of wind energy generation, solar fields and energy efficiency measures, storage, and the electric grid.
Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico took the top environmental honors in the medium-sized ski area category for its comprehensive and groundbreaking “Taos Verde” sustainability program. This year Taos was the first ski resort in the world to become a certified B Corporation. Certified B Corps are required to meet the highest standards of verified economic, social, and environmental performance, and public transparency. Taos earned this recognition because the Taos Verde mission is not only to pursue environmental business practices but also to promote a more resilient and robust community. Taos has taken drastic actions over the past two years to reduce its overall energy consumption by 10.9 percent. The resort is a participant in the Climate Challenge, and has committed to a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020. Taos has discontinued the sale of disposable plastic bottles at all facilities—offering reusable bottles as an alternative—expecting to remove 10,000 plastic bottles from its waste stream annually. Additional watershed protection measures, waste reduction efforts, and engagement with conservation non-profits make Taos a standout and deserving recipient of the Golden Eagle Award.
Squaw Valley I Alpine Meadows in California won the Golden Eagle Award in the large resort category for its multifacted approach to sustainability and leveraging its influence in support of climate change solutions. Squaw has reduced its own carbon footprint as an early adopter of sustainable technologies and a participant in the Climate Challenge. The resort supports a broad array of regional transit and parking initiatives, including free POW Parking for HOVs, free electric car charging, free skier shuttle services between lodging and the mountain, and between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, eliminating roughly 85 tons of CO2 in emissions annually. Squaw also partners with POW through hosting the Rider’s Alliance & Athlete Summits, the branding of its funitel cabin with POW to educate guests on the “POW Seven” Pledge, and even a POW branded phone booth in the Village during the World Cup, featuring facts on climate, scripts, and state representatives’ contact information to encourage guests to engage in advocacy. In collaboration with FIS, Squaw accomplished a Carbon Neutral 2017 World Cup by offsetting the event’s carbon footprint (including all mountain operations—snowmaking, lifts, grooming—and travel emissions of athletes, coaches, and World Cup staff to and during the event, their accommodations, and meals) through purchase of certified carbon credits and an on-site solar installation. This effort will serve as a model for future carbon neutral FIS events. Squaw has used its influence to effect change beyond the resort as well, by joining a Regional Clean Power Coalition to encourage power provider Liberty Utilities to replace coal with renewable energy sources, and joining Switch, Tesla, Patagonia, and others in support of a successful Nevada ballot measure, Question 3, to require lawmakers to create an open, competitive, well-regulated energy market.
Onno Wieringa is a Hero of Sustainability for his environmental leadership at the helm of Alta Ski Area. He has been a leading voice for Alta’s triple bottom line performance since before the phrase was popular. Wieringa published one of the industry’s first environmental reports and commissioned one of the first ski area greenhouse gas inventories in the country, years before NSAA launched the Climate Challenge, long before we had POW or Paris. In 2008, he founded the Alta Environmental Center (AEC) to pursue sustainability internally for the ski area, act as a resource to the community, and foster environmental education. The AEC has received much deserved recognition for its many contributions to sustainability. Wieringa has shared his sustainability experience widely in his leadership roles across the industry, including years of service on the NSAA Environmental Committee and Ski Utah. Through the Mountain Collective, he encouraged peer resorts to find common ground in sustainability and helped boost participation in the Climate Challenge. Wieringa has always approached sustainability from a common sense perspective of hard work and doing right by people and the places we love. For that, he is a Hero of Sustainability. He is retiring this year after 44 years of service to Alta Ski Area. He has left a lasting and positive legacy of valuing environmental stewardship that will serve the ski area, its employees and community, Utah, and the ski industry for decades to come.

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