We're Turning Sunlight into Snow!
By Emily A. Stanton
Gore Mountain was recently awarded the esteemed Golden Eagle for Overall Environmental Excellence by a ski area at the National Ski Areas Association's (NSAA) Annual Conference in Nashville, TN. Presented by SKI Magazine, the Golden Eagle is the industry's most prestigious award for sustainability, and Gore's broad range of environmental stewardship across several areas of its operation was integral to its win. At the same time, Gore Mountain successfully demonstrated that a growing resort (its acreage and uphill capacity have increased 131 percent and 142 percent respectively over the last 20 years) can simultaneously be sustainable.
Gore's largest environmental project is its contracting of two 25-year solar power purchase agreements, which combine into a massive 5.325 MW system. Using remote net metering, 85% of Gore's electrical is poised to be offset. In cooperation with Borrego Solar, Gore Mountain is efficiently harvesting sunlight for its energy needs, utilizing 14,589 ground-mounted solar panels across 20 acres of otherwise fallow farmland. The electricity generated credits Gore's meter at a rate higher than power that is traditionally produced, while providing a cleaner, more sustainable source of energy to its electric distribution zone. The agreement is projected to save Gore Mountain approximately $10 million over the life of the contract, while offsetting 113,919 tons of carbon dioxide, 71,634 pounds of nitrogen oxide emissions, and 131,835 pounds of sulfur. Gore's purchase agreement received support from Governor Cuomo's NY-Sun incentive through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Gore also earned its Golden Eagle by enhancing the guest experience in creative ways that help both the planet and its business. One example of this has been an ongoing investment in new, high-efficiency snowmaking technologies. These upgrades have allowed Gore to make more snow in a shorter amount of time, all with less energy required to do so. 2016/2017 has marked the fifth consecutive year of significant modernization of the snowmaking infrastructure, with 66 high-efficiency guns replacing more antiquated components of the system. Variable drives recently installed at Gore's pump house allow the amount of water pumped to fluctuate more precisely with demand, also increasing system efficiency and further reducing annual electrical use.
Strategic trail work has been another way to lower energy use. Gore identified areas where smoothing and regrading portions of certain trails would alleviate the necessity to fill terrain irregularities with snow in order to get the trails to open. Work on the Headwaters trail alone saved 1.5 million gallons of snowmaking water during the 2015/2016 season, and similar improvements were also completed on the Showcase and Foxlair trails. The skier/boardercross course was shaped with earthen features, also decreasing its dependency on snowmaking to build the terrain elements. For guests, these modifications mean access to the terrain for a longer duration of the season, with more consistent conditions.
While exploring Gore, guests are invited to learn about the environment through interestingly placed interpretive information. Signage is presented on different placards inside each gondola cabin, it is placed in the lodges and along nature trails, and it is mounted upon a beautiful observation deck at the top of the gondola. This deck was framed by repurposed steel from the original Adirondack Express lift.
Indoor efforts also contributed to Gore's award. ORDA's concessionaire Centerplate introduced service of several locally sourced foods, including NY maple syrup, made-in-North Creek baked goods, and regional cheeses and fruits. These items are primarily served at the Corduroy Cafe in the Base Lodge, a foodservice area built from recycled materials. Meanwhile, most traditional lighting has been replaced with LED throughout the resort, recycled rubber flooring was applied in the lodge, and an attractive rock retaining wall was constructed from Gore Mountain boulders.
Gore Mountain has unveiled even more environmentally-friendly aspects of its operation this winter. New Nordic terrain, some of which is in the FIS-certification process for premier race events, is open daily, using land, facilities, snowmaking, lights, and other amenities that were already in place. Freestyle skiers and riders can look forward to the official opening of "Forever Wild," a glade complete with purely natural features such as log rails, wooden pyramids, and boulders. The reclaimed "Hudson" trail at the North Creek Ski Bowl, a ski run closed since 1977 but now its own example of recycling, will also debut.
Since 2000, Gore has won three "Silver Eagle" awards, which are competitive environmental excellence awards in regard to a specific discipline. They were presented to Gore Mountain by the National Ski Areas Association:
For Excellence in Environmental Group Relations: Gore Mountain's exciting expansions need to be carefully planned so that the growth is supported with the appropriate research, permits, and funding, and that there has been review from special interest groups. One example is the Hudson River Pipeline. Gore Mountain draws water from the Hudson for snowmaking. By involving environmental groups in the planning of programs like this, concerns are mitigated and we can ensure the safety of the Hudson River habitats throughout the year.
For Excellence in Environmental Education: Gore Mountain's unique Northwoods Knowledge program shares fun information inside each gondola cabin about the history, ecology, and geology of the region. Gore hosts environmental field trips for area schools, offers hiking excursions that incorporate environmental education, and hosts educational events. Check out environmental signage throughout the resort.
For Excellence in Minimization of Visual Impact: Gore won this award in several ways, which included the low-profile design and natural color scheme of the Northwoods Gondola, the intake structure at the Hudson River, the construction of new architecture, and the redevelopment of the historic North Creek Ski Bowl.
Gore was also a finalist for winning a Silver Eagle for Waste Reduction & Recycling, due to its construction efforts of the Northwoods Lodge by Lincoln Logs, which converted the historic gondola loading barn into a one-stop shop for family and snow sports programs, rentals and demos, and group services.