April 22, 2021
Stratton Mountain Resort is committed to the role of environmental leadership and sustainability across all areas of our business. It is our priority and responsibility to be stewards of the natural environment in which we live, work, and play by incorporating a sustainable point of view into every business decision. Our sustainable point of view is based on the intent to reduce our footprint by actively pursuing innovative solutions, particularly in the areas of resource (land, water, air), energy, and waste management. This initiative is called Fresh Tracks and it aims to implement change resort-wide while educating and empowering our colleagues, community, and guests.
We picked the brain of our Resort Sustainability Manager, Connor O’Sullivan, to talk about the ski and snowboard industry’s environmental initiatives, Stratton’s history, Stratton’s next steps, and more, as we think about the great outdoors on Earth Day 2021.
Andrew Kimiecik: Tell us a little about yourself, Connor. Who are you and what is your position at Stratton?
Connor O’Sullivan: I grew up in Connecticut and I started snowboarding when I was younger. Coming to Vermont almost every weekend in the winter. I went to college in Northern Vermont and after graduating I moved up full time when I started working at Stratton. I’ve been working here for quite a few years working with our finance team. The past few years I began shifting into a new role as the Sustainability Manager here at Stratton.
AK: What inspires you most in your day-to-day tasks as the mountain’s Sustainability Manager?
CO: For me, it’s not the day-to-day tasks that inspire me most about the work we do here at Stratton. I’m inspired by the place we live and get to play in. Growing up I always looked forward to the moments that you can only experience outside. The feeling of getting fresh tracks a powder day, or watching the sunrise or sunset after a hike with a great view is what means most to me. Being able to think long-term about how the work we do can ensure that future generations can have a healthy environment in which they can enjoy those same experiences is what keeps me motivated.
AK: Below you have helped us curate a timeline of notable environmental initiatives, accomplishments, and awards. What on the list stands out to you the most from the past thirty-plus years?
CO: It’s hard to pick one that I think stands out as they are all really important, even those that aren’t on this list. Looking back and seeing that we started this work before I was born is a really big testament to the people who have been at Stratton before us. They knew long before it was a hot topic that taking care of the environment we operate in is a key component of our business. So, I would say the timeline itself is what stands out the most to me.
AK: Thinking forward from that same perspective, as we look to the next twenty years, what do you believe will be the upcoming most notable accomplishment on that list?
CO: That’s a great question, we’ve been moving into a period for a few years now, in which there is a bigger conversation about the environment, sustainability, and climate change as a whole in the outdoor industry. I think you’ll see that Stratton has a creative vision when it comes to our future goals and our Fresh Tracks Program. In terms of reducing our energy consumption, refining our waste and recycling streams along with creating a community that supports these efforts. When it comes to specific projects I can’t dive too much into what those plans are. However, I can promise that we have set our sights on new goals related to the above key pieces for the next 3, 5, and 10 years already in planning.
AK: What do you hope to accomplish as your next big environmental project here at the resort?
CO: I have been able to work on projects the past few years with members in different divisions of the resort, which has been a great experience. A few of my goals for the next year are to improve our recycling processes, expand our EVC (Electric Vehicle Charging) access, and create an infrastructure plan looking at our overall energy usage and how to reduce those numbers.
AK: Tell us a little bit about 2021’s NexTrex Recycling Challenge
CO: This is our fourth month participating in this program. The NexTrex Challenge is a really cool way to help us reduce our plastic waste. Thin plastics, such as bubble and film wraps, shopping bags, shrink wrap for shipping; are not accepted in most recycling streams. So they usually end up as part of the waste stream. We partnered with this program from Trex to divert those plastics. We collect the plastics and bring them to a local drop-off site. When the material arrives at a Trex facility it is processed into a composite material. This material is then used to create many items that the Trex company builds. For us, we get to reduce our plastic waste and provide it as a material for another business to turn into a product. This is an awesome program that you can sign up for through your school, local community, business or just find a drop-off center and get your single-use plastics out of the waste stream and into the recycling stream!
AK: Those reading this blog post are most definitely interested in the environment, and the impact that they can have on it. What are your three biggest tips for skiing and snowboarding in a more sustainable manner, that is easily accomplished by anyone?
CO: There are so many ways we can reduce our impact around winter sports. We do have a blog up with some information on Being A More Sustainable Rider. I would say firstly, carpool. By carpooling you reduce the impact you would have if you and your friends and family all drove separately. Second, look at the brands you support. From clothing to equipment, you can find out which companies are making the effort to limit their impact and create more sustainable products and processes. Companies like Burton, Rossignol, and many others have great programs in the world of sustainability. Third, think reusable. From drinkware to the clothing you have there are so many ways to reduce the number of items we use. With a good water bottle or coffee mug, you can reduce the number of single-use items you use drastically. If you have a minor tear or scuff on your equipment it can be repaired. Many outdoor companies are creating programs where they fix your gear for you so you don’t need to buy a new coat if the zipper goes or there’s a tear.
Bonus Tip: Don’t stress yourself out, I make mistakes when it comes to being sustainable in my own life. As long as we’re cognizant of our behavior and willing to listen and take advice from others, then we are always building upon our learnings and can create room for constant improvements.
AK: What do you feel is the single most important initiative for the Ski and Snowboard industry to support in terms of environmental sustainability.
CO: Wow, that is a tough question. I feel that everything is important and contributes to the greater goal. As well all of the businesses are so unique in their own ways, which means different challenges. Having to pick one, I would say it’s reducing energy consumption. By improving our infrastructure, from hotels to snowmaking and everything in between. We can invest wisely so that we can maintain the standard we want to provide for everyone while upgrading our systems to be more efficient. Pairing that with knowing where our energy comes from and how clean it is. Is the second piece on the environmental impacts caused by energy consumption.
AK: Thanks, Connor. Now that Spring has sprung, what are you looking forward to most about the warm weather?
CO: Well even though snowboarding is the love of my life, I am excited about the warm weather. I’m looking forward to riding my bike, something I only got into the past few years thanks to my friends. Along with hiking, swimming and just enjoying being outside with shorts on will do. But after a few weeks I can guarantee you I’ll be daydreaming of the first few snowflakes and that first ride up a chairlift next season.
For more information on Sustainability at Stratton Mountain, check out our Fresh Tracks Program webpage.
Scroll down for a year by year look back at Stratton Mountain Resort’s most notable environmental advancements and achievements in sustainability.
Sustainability Through the Years
Stratton begins its work in ecosystem cohabitation, partnering with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. On a 6-year study to understand how the black bear population responds to the changing land use of their habitats.
Win the Golden Eagle Award for Wildlife Habitat Protection.
Develops first water quality remediation plan to bring all resort streams to VT state water quality standards.
Partners with the Vermont Institute of Natural Science to study the Bicknell Thrush a sensitive high-altitude bird species.
Conserves 1499 acres of land to protect the local population of Black bears, Bicknell Thrush and White-tailed deer.
Stratton’s 150 million gallon snowmaking pond opens. The pond is dedicated by Governor Dean, Stratton Select Chair Ted Friedman and President Bob Fries and provides a freshwater collection and holding pond for more efficient snowmaking.
Win Commissioners Landowner Appreciation Award for water conservation and waste management.
Builds a tertiary water treatment plant at the Golf Course.
Signs the Environmental Charter for Ski Areas from the National Ski Area Association.
Wins Silver Eagle Award for Wildlife Habitat Protection.
Governors Award: Village Walkway
Partners with Efficiency Vermont to actively pursue energy efficiency improvements across a wide range of applications including lighting upgrades, high-efficiency heating & cooling systems and extensive upgrades to snowmaking systems.
Receives Governor’s Award for Land use and Land use planning on projects that preserve or conserve land to create ecological and environmental benefits that advance smart growth alternatives.
Wins the Vermont Travel Industry Conference Merit Award for land stewardship.
Receives the Commissioner’s Landowner Appreciation Award
Wins Silver Eagle Award for Wildlife Habitat Protection.
Partners with Bill Koch (American Olympic Silver Medal winner in Nordic Skiing) to pilot an environmentally sustainable trail cutting program.
Vermont Institute of Natural Science celebrates 10 years of research on Stratton Mountain. The longest consecutive research project conducted on the Bicknell’s Thrush bird species.
Wins EPA Green Power Leadership Award for demonstrating actions and behaviors in green power use that accelerate the transition to a clean energy future.
Surpasses 10% reduction goal for electricity and diesel consumption.
Partners with Allard Lumber, Copeland Furniture, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to supply Green Certified Lumber to produce Vermont Sustainable Furniture.
Wins Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Energy Conservation/Clean Energy
Received North Eastern Energy Efficiency Award for Leadership in Business Commitment to Energy Efficiency.
Signs on as a partner in the EPA WasteWise program, which is continued to this day.
Stratton is able to re-route our waste to Casella Waste Management’s new single-stream recycling facility in Rutland, VT. This allows us to reduce transportation time and associated carbon emissions while maintaining our ability to utilize zero-sort recycling.
Four undersized culverts that were compromised during Tropical Storm Irene were replaced and upgraded. Larger culverts with natural bottoms allow fish and biota free passage in streams.
Higher efficiency snow gun equipment is using 90% less compressed air than old snowmaking equipment. For every new gun installed with this efficiency, 10 old guns can be replaced.
Energy Leadership Challenge Achiever Along with other energy leaders including Sugarbush Resort, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Energizer Battery Manufacturing Company
Stratton is 1 out of 10 private businesses to sign onto Efficiency Vermont’s Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) program. Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) is a long-term, comprehensive strategy for maximizing energy productivity. CEI integrates capital upgrades, process improvements, maintenance, and employee engagement to yield deeper, more sustainable savings.
Receives VSAA Green Mountain Award for Miscellaneous Recycling
Received VSAA’s Green Mountain Awards for Environmental Excellence at Vermont Ski Resorts award for Most Improved Carbon Footprint.
Stratton Mountain Resort is the only Vermont organization this year to be recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for efforts in diverting food waste. Stratton is among the 24 organizations recognized in the EPA’s annual “Food Recovery Challenge,” which collectively diverted over 38,000 tons of food to donation or composting in 2014.
Winner of the EPA’s WasteWise Regional Award, Stratton Mountain Resort diverted 18.4 tons of wasted food to create compost.
Stratton will now offer straws by request only and feature a bamboo option instead of plastic.
Stratton Village retail shops will be switching to bags made of 100 percent recycled paper.
Stratton’s indoor tennis courts have been outfitted with 47 new LED light fixtures complete with motion sensors, improving lighting for players as well as saving 18,900kWH and 18,500 pounds of carbon annually.
From 2000-2020 reduced electrical consumption by 10.9 million kWh or 2610MTCO2e
First bank of EV Chargers installed at the Welcome Center
1,214lbs of old employee uniforms were sent out to a reclamation facility. These old uniforms yielded 855lbs of recycled fabric that is now able to be repurposed by other businesses.
Joins the NexTrex Recycling Challenge program to divert thin plastics from our waste stream and be reused as a composite material, like composite decking and park benches. Since January 2021, 83lbs of non-recyclable LDPE was diverted from the waste stream.
Read our recent blog post for more tips on sustainable shredding in our everyday approaches to skiing and snowboarding.