Mountains’ environmental efforts recognized 

" This is not just a Whistler-Blackcomb award. It’s a community award that shows people here are willing to work with us as a team to improve our overall stewardship endeavours through sustainable environmental practices ."

— Whistler-Blackcomb’s Arthur DeJong

Whistler-Blackcomb was among seven ski areas in North America to be recognized for environmental excellence at the Mountain Sport Media’s Golden Eagle Awards in California last week.

The Aspen Skiing Company captured the highest honour by taking home the coveted Golden Eagle Award to add to its existing clutch of two Golden and six Silver Eagle awards. Whistler-Blackcomb added the 2001 Environmental Group Relations Silver Eagle Award to its collection.

Whistler-Blackcomb has been entering the competition since it began in 1993 and has picked up several silver eagle trophies along the way, including the 1998 award for excellence in environmental education and the 1999 awards for environmental group mediations and habitat protection.

Arthur DeJong, Whistler-Blackcomb mountain planning and environmental resource manager, describes the annual awards as "the Stanley Cup" among his ilk. "It’s exciting as it shows this resort has the potential to lead in sustainable environmental practices because we work as a team," he says. "I can see 10 or 15 years down the track Whistler being held as a world example of excellence in environmental practices."

The award organizers, Mountain Sports Media, highlighted Whistler-Blackcomb’s involvement with community groups at every stage of planning as a key factor behind the award. It identified the ski resort’s membership in 10 community and environmental groups including Streamkeepers, as well as its establishment of a Habitat Improvement Team and Environmental Fund for local environmental projects. DeJong says Whistler’s successful formula lies in its partnership approach.

"Our application in the award highlighted programs such as The Natural Step which brings stakeholders such as Tourism Whistler, the municipality, environmental and interest groups together."

DeJong says the fact Whistler has been recognized by the judges for certain achievements in some years and not others, does not imply environmental sustainability efforts vary from season to season. Rather, he says, the goal is to encourage the widespread uptake of positive practices by ski resorts and to recognize innovative practices or expansion of existing programs.

"For example I believe Whistler is at least equal to the top performers in terms of environment education, habitat protection and community relations," he says. "However we can also learn a lot from what others are doing, especially Aspen, who really set the benchmark."

DeJong says the energy management and "green" building initiatives currently being pursued by the Colorado resort are especially of interest.

"Green technology is improving daily and we need to see how to apply it here in the areas of clean air policies, sustainable building infrastructures and chair lifts run by wind-generated power, for example," DeJong said.

In awarding the Aspen Skiing Company its third Golden Eagle, Mountain Sports Media noted the company’s "environmental stewardship is evident in each and every facet of its operation. Aspen Skiing Co. leads the way through its many programs such as a $1.8 million subsidy of local mass transit; land trust partnerships; an employee-directed Environmental Foundation; the first industry environmental Web page; an environmental scholarship program; a community environmental advisory committee and its water saving and lighting retrofit programs. Other programs and initiatives include environmental purchasing policies; building recycling and renewable energy initiatives; the ground-breaking Sustainability Report and the state-of-the-art Sundeck Restaurant, one of only 10 certified green buildings in the country."

The other Silver Eagle winners among the 26 resorts that entered this year were; Colorado’s Crested Butte for fish & wildlife habitat protection, Oregon’s Mount Ashland for environmental education, Washington’s White Pass for water conservation/wastewater management, Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts for energy conservation, and The Canyons in Utah for visual impacts.

Mountain Sports Media is a division of Time4 Media based in Colorado. Included in its publishing portfolio are SKI, SKIING and FREEZE magazines and Warren Miller Entertainment. The company started the Golden Eagle Awards in 1993 in a bid to recognize the "environmental achievements of ski areas," because "the positive environmental impact is not often mentioned."

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