Golden Eagle logo

Established in 1993, the Golden Eagle Awards are the highest honors bestowed on a ski area for environmental performance. The awards have been updated over the years to reflect changes in sustainability best practices and highlight the importance of climate change action and advocacy. Award finalists will be recognized and the winners announced at NSAA's 2024 National Convention & Tradeshow on May 23.

Applications due by April 1, 2024

2024 Golden Eagle Application Award Submission Tips

Category Descriptions

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
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.

2023 Golden Eagle Award Winners

Congratulations to the Golden Eagle Award winners and finalists. Winners are highlighted in bold.

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.