Established in 1993, these are the highest honors bestowed on a resort for environmental performance. For over 25 years, the NSAA Golden Eagle Awards for Environmental Excellence have celebrated the best North American ski area sustainability programs and the people who make them happen. Recognition is awarded in four categories: Environmental Excellence, Innovation in Sustainability, Climate Change Impact, and Hero of Sustainability.
Thank you to the 2021 sponsor of the Golden Eagle Awards, TechnoAlpin.
Past Golden Eagle Award Winners
Congratulations to the 2021 Golden Eagle Award Winners and Finalists
Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence
- Winner: Boyne Resorts, Michigan
- Michigan-based and family-owned Boyne Resorts has a rich history of environmental stewardship – but they didn’t rest on that. The resort company’s leadership forged ahead to create the Forever Project, a holistic approach to sustainability for its full portfolio of resorts. This comprehensive program set ambitious but achievable goals by approaching the issue of climate change with multiple solutions. These include: building collaborative partnerships, seeking renewable energy opportunities, enrolling all of their ski areas in NSAA’s Climate Challenge and encouraging advocacy efforts.
- Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
- A perennial leader in corporate responsibility, Taos Ski Valley partnered with other community stakeholders to find a collaborative solution to mitigate the risk of wildfires and endure the health of the Rio Grande River. Taos trained its employees in wildfire mitigation and management to reduce the risk of extreme and destructive fire events, and identified projects that support the restoration of 600,000 acres of critical forests at the Rio Grande headwaters.
- Wild Mountain, Minnesota
- Small but mighty, Wild Mountain is a model for ski areas looking to reduce their carbon footprint. In a short time, Wild Mountain leadership found multiple solutions to “Keep It Wild,” transitioning to 100% clean energy within months. They reduced waste by implementing recycling and eliminating single-use plastics, and commenced a multi-year program to increase energy efficiency across the ski area. In a final, important step, the team at Wild Mountain supported an internal inventory along with external projects to work achieve carbon neutrality.
Innovation in Sustainability
- Winner: Copper Mountain Resort, Colorado
- Caring for the ecosystem is a critical part of being able to Play Forever. In 2018, Copper Mountain’s sustainability team undertook a multi-year project to harvest and restore native foliage to the ski area. Copper has collected seed from 64 naturally-occurring plant species, utilizing the guidance of local wildland organizations to do so in an ecologically sensitive way. They’ve also successfully engaged local volunteers for a fun and educational outdoor experience, while also contributing to carbon sequestration (the results of which are vetted by a third party). And that’s not all – Copper plans to share their experience and process with neighboring ski areas in the hopes of spreading the seeds of environmental protection.
- Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado
- For recognizing and capitalizing on the value of company-wide commitment to sustainability, Eldora Mountain Resort has been named a finalist for the Innovation in Sustainability Award.
- Stratton Mountain Resort, Vermont
- For finding a new and inventive partnership to solve a common waste reduction challenge, Stratton Mountain Resort has been named a finalist for the Innovation in Sustainability Award.
Climate Change Impact Award
- (Tie) Winner: Eldora Mountain Resort, Colorado
- The team at Eldora Mountain Resort fully embraced the Play Forever message of fighting climate change, incorporating both large-scale carbon reduction efforts by partnering with local utilities, and by empowering their employees to make smaller changes to benefit the environment. At Eldora, sustainability is the responsibility of every department – employees are educated so they can find reduction projects in their department, and are rewarded for going above and beyond in this work. Eldora and the POWDR family of resorts are steadily approaching their reduction goals by engaging their staff and allowing everyone to be part of the solution.
- (Tie) Winner: Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico
- You might be tired from skiing their steeps all day, but the Taos team is tireless in their work to find ways to support their community and the natural environment. After the devastating 2014 Las Conchas fire, the Rio Grande Water Fund was created. Taos joined the collaborative effort, worked to mitigate the risk of extreme wildfire events by funding employee training to be Type 2 Wildland Firefighters, and managed forests by glading and creating fire breaks. Not only are they mitigating a disastrous result of a changing climate, but active forest management leads to long-term increases in carbon sequestration.
- Sugarbush Resort, Vermont
- Sugarbush Resort is no stranger to the carbon reduction game, but what makes them stand out is that they are continually improving upon their already high-performing program. Their sixth solar installation – the first directly on Sugarbush property – contributes to their total energy production that offsets all of the electricity consumption at Mt. Ellen, and their innovative metering arrangement allows for additional offsets at Lincoln Peak and other Sugarbush facilities.
Hero of Sustainability
- Winner: Laura Schaffer, POWDR, Utah
- POWDR’s Laura Shaffer is one of our industry’s most dedicated stewards of both communities and the environment. She created Play Forever, the sustainability and corporate responsibility commitment for the company’s 17 properties. She has integrated the Play Forever ethos into POWDR’s holistic long-term strategic planning, including building a culture of employee stewardship and implementing the transition to renewable energy. During the pandemic, she spearheaded POWDR’s Play It Forward philanthropic effort to support the local communities in which we work and play. Laura’s colleagues describe her as a fierce leader – passionate, smart, patient, an advocate, an ambassador and an inspiration.
- Connor O'Sullivan, Stratton Mountain Resort, Vermont
- Some people tip toe into their first year in a position, but Connor O’Sullivan dove right in. As the ski area’s sustainability manager, Connor O’Sullivan chipped away at every sustainability project that presented itself, and worked to identify additional areas for improvement. He has reduced waste by partnering with internal and external stakeholders, worked on energy efficiency projects and helped market the area’s sustainability efforts.
- Greg Keyes, Bogus Basin, Idaho
- As manager of Pioneer Lodge, Greg made the most of 2020 by implementing recycling and waste reduction procedures ahead of the summer operating season. He identified the problem (in this case, too much cardboard), recruited a strong team and asked for their input on the process, and then went above and beyond by transporting these recyclables to the nearest facility... 21 miles away.