Golden Eagle logoEstablished in 1993, these are the highest honors bestowed on a resort for environmental performance. 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 for over 30 years. Award finalists will be recognized and the winners announced at NSAA's 2023 National Convention & Tradeshow on May 10, 2023.

2023 Golden Eagle Award Winners

Congratulations to the Golden Eagle Award winners and finalists in every category. Winners are highlighted in bold. Stay tuned for more info on their programs here!

Overall Environmental Excellence

  • Massanutten Resort, VA
  • In the last 18 months, Massanutten has taken huge strides in committing to carbon emission reduction and environmental stewardship. They joined NSAA’s Climate Challenge; developed solar array installation projects at three different areas around the resort; implemented resort shuttles; installed EV charging stations; and began the process of upgrading their snowmaking and trail lighting to energy-efficient snowguns and LED lighting. They recycle motor oil to heat a different building and boast a diversion total of 150,000 pounds of recyclable material from the landfill annually. To top it all off, they developed an eye-catching sustainability webpage to educate their guests on these topics, they hired a full-time sustainability coordinator.     

  • Taos Ski Valley, NM
  • Many businesses purchase carbon offsets and fund off-site reduction projects, but Taos is the gold standard in this field - and Certified Carbon Neutral. Taos ensures their offsets are certified to meet Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, or the American Carbon Registry requirements. They consider where their reduction projects are based as well as the number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals they achieve. In their words, “it’s important that the projects have a positive impact on the communities and regions where they are located as they do on the environment.” They’re also adopting EV technologies, diverting waste, improving energy efficiency in buildings and equipment, mitigating fire risks, focusing on ecosystem health and much more.  

  • Wild Mountain, MN
  • Wild became the first ski area to be a Carbon Neutral Company in 2020 (followed by their fellow finalist, Taos Ski Valley, NM, in 2022). They achieved a whopping 48% reduction in their GHG emissions from the previous season. Wild improved the energy efficiency of their equipment and lighting; they sell eco-friendly retail; reduce their waste streams; and even established a Monarch Waystation to support the now-endangered Monarch Butterfly. They documented all of this in their inaugural “Responsibility Report”, a strong stance on 100% transparency. And they went beyond the boundaries of their operation: Wild has sold “posters with purpose” to support four different local organizations; donates $1 from every season pass sold; and created their “1 For All” program, where 1% of all hours worked by core staff goes to community endeavors, including environmental programs and social services.


  • Arapahoe Basin, CO
  • A-Basin is a founding member of NSAA’s Climate Challenge and the Sustainable Slopes Charter, and has served as a mentor to other ski areas. Their mentorship and engagement extend beyond their peers and into the community as well; Arapahoe Basin staff on the sustainability team hold key positions on several non-profit boards, town, county and state advisory groups, and task forces. The team has contributed to or hosted sustainability panels, podcasts, and events. They are an outspoken voice in the realm of climate advocacy: Arapahoe Basin has testified on Capitol Hill in support of climate solutions and written several op-eds, many in partnership with fellow ski areas. 

  • Big Sky Resort, MT
  • Big Sky Resort knows that sustainability necessitates local solutions, and together we can go much further, faster: “By working with community partners, we are better able to consider the interconnections and interdependencies throughout the system to develop more sustainable, long-term solutions.” They have two carpool incentive programs for guests and employees, and offer free bus passes; they co-authored the “Big Sky Community Climate Action Plan”; and participate in the Middle Fork Stream Restoration Project. The team donates furniture to the local Habitat for Humanity and the Montana Rescue Mission, and has donated snowmaking hoses to the Yellowstone Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. They’ve even partnered on a local beer to support environmental projects with a portion of the proceeds. The Big Sky team sits on several local boards of directors and wrote a powerful op-ed with fellow ski areas, Citizen’s Climate Lobby and the Montana Ski Areas Association. 

  • Copper Mountain, CO
  • Several of Copper's programs are becoming blueprints for collaboration in the ski industry. As part of Copper’s PlayForever giving program, they donate $5 for every $90 Thursday lift ticket or every summer activity pass. Copper has supported 25 organizations with over $400,000 in the last four years. This program offers more than financial support; Copper is “providing a platform at the resort for partner organizations to share their goals, market for volunteers, and seek donation support.” Copper created an annual “Copper Conservation Summit," inviting everyone from resort operators and local land managers to a wide variety of organizations that specialize in conservation, including fellow ski areas.

Climate Change Impact

  • Massanutten Resort, VA
  • See description in "Overall Environmental Excellence"

  • Taos Ski Valley, NM
  • See description in "Overall Environmental Excellence"

  • Vail Resorts, CO 
  • In 2017, Vail Resorts announced their Commitment to Zero program with the goal of achieving a zero net operating footprint by 2030. Through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, investing in renewable electricity, reducing waste, restoring forests, and improving operational efficiencies, Vail Resorts surpassed its 2025 interim goal of 50% progress toward zero net emissions – three years early. To reach this impressive milestone, the company made their largest single-year investment ever in energy efficiency, directing millions to energy-saving projects in their buildings, lifts, and snowmaking. All 37 of Vail’s North American resorts reached 100% renewable electricity, and their world-wide operation achieved 96% renewable electricity. Vail’s EpicPromise Progress Report provides detailed reporting annually.  

Hero of Sustainability

  • Mike Nathan | Arapahoe Basin, CO
  • Mike Nathan has worked at Arapahoe Basin for over a decade in various roles, but his passion has always centered on sustainability and improving his ski area’s environmental performance. Mike has an influence on everything he touches: he doesn’t hesitate to shovel snow off snow panels, drive employee shuttles, get on calls and podcasts with fellow resorts, or use Arapahoe Basin’s business voice in climate advocacy. Mike has been immensely successful not only in Arapahoe Basin’s sustainability progress but educating the community on their work; he hosts weekly “Sustainability Sundays” on social media where he talks about the many aspects of sustainability at Arapahoe Basin. In a touching addition that speaks to the power of industry connections, Mike was nominated by Sha Miklas, one of the Basin's first sustainability leaders and previous winner of the Hero of Sustainability award.

  • Jeff Grasser | Copper Mountain, CO
  • Jeff Grasser leads the Copper sustainability team in countless daily sustainability tasks, but his influence reaches much further than that. Jeff is the brain behind and founder of the collaborative Copper Conservation Summit that takes place annually, and helped nominate Copper as a finalist in Community & Partnerships. Jeff has also spearheaded a (literally) ground-breaking study on carbon sequestration, right on Copper’s ski slopes. After creating Copper’s native seed collection project, which won Copper an Innovation in Sustainability award two years ago, Jeff and the Copper team had collected over 100,000 seeds from native species to be replanted on Copper’s ski slopes. He then partnered with a team from Southwestern University and has enacted a 10-year study to analyze and create a baseline measurement to test for carbon and the most effective methods to improve carbon storage. Add on top of this Jeff’s passion, leadership, belief in collaboration and ability to inspire us all, and it is no wonder he was named the 2023 Golden Eagle Hero of Sustainability.

  • Chris Kennelly | Stowe Mountain Resort, VT
  • Chris Kennelly, Director of Food & Beverage at Stowe Mountain Resort, goes beyond his traditional role to influence company policy and inspire fellow employees and guests toward environmental action. Chris began his environmental work at a grassroots level nearly 15 years ago and has been a Commitment to Zero team captain at Stowe for more than four years. His passion has sparked engagement and conversation resort-wide around the successes and challenges the wider Stowe team faces in sustainability. His advocacy has helped to increase recycling and waste awareness, and thanks to Chris, Stowe has increased their compost output by 109% year-over-year. His most recent project has been collecting what he calls “crunchy” wrappers – the typical candy bar wrapper – and has helped to divert nearly 210 pounds of wrappers from the landfill, which will be upcycled into deck furniture to be placed right back around the resort at Stowe.

Category Descriptions

Understanding each award category will help you create the best application possible. Familiarize yourself with the 2023 categories here.

Golden Eagle for Environmental Excellence
Awarded to an industry leader in sustainability with broad programming and a holistic approach leading to overall environmental achievement across their operations.

Climate Change Impact
Powerful initiatives that result in impactful climate change solutions, whether through action, adaptation, advocacy or mitigation.

Community & Partnerships
New this year, this award recognizes ski areas that foster a collaborative environment in their community, taking advantage of local partnerships to drive results and inspire others into action against climate change.

Hero of Sustainability
A ski area employee who goes the extra mile to influence company policy and inspire fellow employees or guests toward environmental action.

Historical Golden Eagle Award Winners

2022 Golden Eagle Awards

Looking for inspiration? Read about last year's award-winning programs and finalists to understand the caliber of a winning project. Also view the 2022 NSAA Awards Ceremony that took place in the Country Music Awards Theatre in Nashville, TN.

Overall Environmental Excellence

  • Winner: Alta Ski Area, UT
    • To understand Alta’s commitment to the environment, look no further than the Alta Environmental Center (AEC). The AEC’s approach to environmental stewardship was years in the making. They boast impressive land conservation and restoration programs and are not afraid to look the most daunting projects in the eye. This year, the AEC identified some of their largest emission-producing processes: They committed to purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) worth an amount that matches 100% of the ski area’s electricity use, resulting in estimated savings of 3,567 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2) annually. Judges appreciated the AEC’s acknowledgement that RECs are not the final climate solution and the commitment to directly support renewable alternatives at local, state and national levels. The AEC also worked to divert food waste in Little Cottonwood Canyon, engaging community organizations and partnering with fellow Golden Eagle finalist Snowbird. What started with a pilot food collection in program in 2019 turned into sending food waste to a digester to create biomethane (a renewable natural gas) and ended in diverting over 41,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill in one year.
  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, CO
    • Arapahoe Basin has become known for their authentic approach to sustainability, both greening their operations and using their voice to speak up for climate action policies. A-Basin created a strategic sustainability plan in 2018, with seven goals to reach by 2025, culminating in the ski area becoming a 100% carbon neutral operation. At roughly their halfway mark, the ski area made large strides toward their goals this year. A-Basin installed new EV chargers. By putting these in coveted parking spots —offering free charging for the inaugural year and including a healthy dollop of signage — the ski area made clear how much they value sustainability in collaboration with guests. Judges also considered the significant and bold climate advocacy as a compelling argument in A-Basin’s favor. The organization has signed on to business letters and even written their own op-ed urging for climate action at state and federal levels. Furthermore, they continue to engage their guest base, posting on social media for #SustainabilitySundays and placing collaboration over competition with fellow mountain town organizations.
  • Snowbird, UT
    • Snowbird made the decision to replace their 35-year-old cogeneration plant with an entirely new one, and this massive undertaking has proven totally worth it. The new cogeneration plant is 60% more efficient electrically than its predecessor and generates 90–100% of the resort’s power via natural gas. The upgrade saves the ski area roughly 62,000 dekatherms of natural gas annually, the equivalent of burning 4 million pounds of coal per year. By mostly eliminating the mountain’s demand on the utility grid, Snowbird has removed its dependency on coal and carved out a reliable energy source in a high-altitude, difficult-to-access environment where renewable energy like wind and solar face many challenges. Judges loved that the heat produced in the process is recycled through the system and used to heat buildings across the resort and that Snowbird took the opportunity to have fun with the branding of such an endeavor (for more on that, see our Marketing Awards). This project, paired with green initiatives across the mountain like glass recycling and food composting, stood out among applications this year. The resort demonstrated a takeaway we can all keep in mind while working to be more sustainable: Do what you can with the resources you’ve got in the space you have.

Climate Change Impact Award

  • Winner: Arapahoe Basin, CO
    • A-Basin earned multiple Golden Eagle nominations for the multiple ways in which they tackle environmental work. They promote climate action and advocacy at a resort level, and encourage their consumer base, community and political leaders to do the same. A-Basin’s strategic sustainability plan culminates in the ski area becoming a 100% carbon neutral operation by 2025. Their new EV chargers, free for the first year and placed in some of the best parking, encourage guests to be more green themselves. Arapahoe Basin is directly contributing to the continued removal of barriers to EV adoption in mountain towns and being vocal about it. The organization has signed on to business letters and even written their own op-ed urging for climate action at state and federal levels.
  • Vail Resorts, CO
    • Vail Resorts set a lofty goal for 2030: to reach net zero emissions across their North American resorts. By the end of 2021, the company’s ski areas were powered by 85% renewable energy thanks to the 82-turbine Plum Creek Wind Project they enabled. In the first full year of operation, the renewable electricity generated reduced Vail’s market-based GHG emissions by 50.5% versus the previous year — that’s the equivalent of removing over 230,000 passenger cars from the road for a year. Vail Resorts is continuing to take advantage of their wide network of ski areas to share ideas and learnings to advance progress in the field of sustainability. Their continued accomplishments in many environmental initiatives, from waste diversion to energy efficiency, are noteworthy examples of a holistic approach to sustainability.
  • Wild Mountain, MN
    • Wild Mountain is on a mission to “Keep It Wild,” and the team there are experts at encouraging their guests to help them do so. Just this past year, they saw a 26% increase in season passholders; that’s a 26% increase in a consumer base to engage on sustainability. Wild Mountain boasts an impressive accomplishment in the environmental field: Carbon Neutral Certification. Even with this under their belt, Wild Mountain continues to green their operation in whatever ways they can. They improved their recycling program; replaced trail lighting with more energy-efficient lighting; offered more eco-friendly retail gear and clothes; and eliminated over 500,000 pieces of single-use plastic from the waste stream. This progress led to a 12.5% reduction in GHG emissions year over year — no small feat for a smaller team.

Innovation in Sustainability

  • Winner: Snowbasin Resort, UT
    • Snowbasin realized that many employees and guests don’t know much about sustainable habits. People know they should recycle, not how to recycle; they know they should choose products and transportation responsibly, they just don’t know how to do so. In today’s info-saturated world, Snowbasin sought to cut through the clutter with something new and engaging to increase education and drive a culture of sustainability across the resort. Every other Sunday, the Snowbasin team hosted games with sustainable prizes to educate guests on environmental practices. They rotated through a variety of clever challenges, including digital scavenger hunts around the mountain. Through promotion and effective content, the team saw a nearly 300% increase in participation. The judges also took note that Snowbasin practiced what they preached: They offered discounted bus passes, carpool parking lots and engaged on sustainability across their social media channels.
  • Arapahoe Basin, CO
    • How can a resort’s nominations stretch across three categories? A-Basin not only produces results, they do so in an innovative way. The team at A-Basin worked tirelessly to provide unique and new ways to fund their sustainability projects. By engaging with local companies and funding partners, they were able to purchase their new EV chargers at 20% of the cost. The ski area promotes climate action and advocacy at a resort level and encourages their consumer base, community and political leaders to do the same. A-Basin’s strategic sustainability plan culminates in the ski area becoming a 100% carbon neutral operation by 2025.
  • Sunlight Mountain Resort, CO
    • Sunlight approached a common project, EV chargers, and looked at it differently. How can a family ski area high in the mountains install new EV charging stations? Sunlight worked with Colorado organizations and local partners to find support, receiving funding grants for this process. The ski area knows how important showing your guests what you’re doing is to inspiring action in them, and they offered two for one lift tickets during opening weekend for all EV drivers. Sunlight’s creativity in installing EV chargers was just the start. The ski area has installed snow fencing to harness more natural snow; repurposed old snowboards for trail signs; implemented solar-powered webcams and metal scrap recycling; optimized their irrigation systems; and revegetated defunct manmade areas at the base.

Hero of Sustainability

  • Winner: Bonnie Hickey, Bridger Bowl, MT
    • Bonnie Hickey is a pioneer, advocate and mentor in ski industry sustainability. She works tirelessly to find new and creative ways to preserve and protect Bridger Bowl and its surrounding natural landscapes. Hickey has led initiatives to support regenerative grazing and carbon sequestration through local partnerships right in their backyard of the Northern Great Plains of Montana; spearheaded an innovative on-site vertical flow water treatment wetlands project; and led to completion many other impressive projects, including a 50 kWh solar project right next to their mid-mountain lodge. The outcomes of Hickey’s work demonstrate her environmental prowess: Bridger Bowl won the Environmental Excellence Golden Eagle in 2020, was the first ski area in Montana to host a Global Sustainable Tourism Council training event, and got Bridger featured in National Geographic’s Geotourism MapGuides for its sustainable business practices. Combine these accolades with her tireless advocacy on climate solutions in a conservative state and her mentorship of new NSAA Climate Challengers, and you have a great example of what it means to be a Hero of Sustainability.
  • Kate Wilson, Vail Resorts, CO
    • What does it take to oversee strategy and execution of Vail Resorts’ ambitious Commitment to Zero? Strong leadership, determination and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Kate Wilson embodies all of these traits as she has grown Vail Resorts’ sustainability team from nine members to 15 in the last six years. Getting to zero across all Vail Resorts’ properties is no easy feat when operating in varied, unique mountainous regions across the globe. Wilson oversees local sustainability teams to implement strategies specific to each resort and works with leaders across the company to ensure the full employee base is inspired by, and contributing to, Commitment to Zero. Kate also lends her aptitude in sustainability to collaboration and advocacy in the ski industry, most recently stepping in as chair of NSAA’s Environmental Committee. She has ensured Vail Resorts uses its business voice to call for climate action and played an essential role in forming the Climate Collaborative Charter between Alterra Mountain Company, Boyne Resorts, POWDR and Vail Resorts.

Thank you to the 2022 sponsor of the Golden Eagle Awards, TechnoAlpin.