By Claire Piech
Whistler-Blackcomb’s sustainable design for Symphony Amphitheatre has won acclaim from the ski community.
Last week, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) awarded Whistler-Blackcomb a Silver Eagle Award for Fish and Wildlife Habitat Protection for its efforts to keep wildlife habitat intact while developing the Symphony chairlift and related runs in 2006.
The honour marks the seventh time Whistler-Blackcomb has received a Silver Eagle Award from the association.
“Whistler-Blackcomb’s trail design for the Symphony Amphitheatre has mimicked the natural growth of the sub-alpine forest in a way that works really well both aesthetically and ecologically,” said Derek Bonin, a key member of Symphony’s design team.
The design team, composed of planners and engineers including a bear biologist, worked together to ensure that Symphony would have minimal impact on Whistler Mountain’s wildlife. The team was successful in reducing the project’s ecological footprint from 40 per cent to less than 5 per cent.
“Whistler carefully thinned out the natural tree clusters typical of this high altitude, creating a wonderful intermediate gladed experience without upsetting the natural ecosystem and the ability for young trees to continue to grow and older trees to die,” said Bonin.
The Symphony Amphitheatre opened up 1,000 acres of high alpine terrain in an area known as the Piccolo Peak/Symphony Basin. Steep alpine bowls, cruisey groomers, and gladed sections characterize the terrain, as well as panoramic views of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Blackcomb Mountain.
Seven other ski resorts in California, Colorado, and Oregon also received Silver Eagle Awards this year for their environmental accomplishments in areas such as clean energy and habitat protection.
“We are encouraged by the environmental strides of the winter sports industry,” said Ricardo Balazs, sports marketing manager for the award program’s administrator. “The incredible work being done on the part of this year’s applicants will hopefully inspire others to take action against environmental threats such as global warming. We need to do all we can to save our snow and protect our planet.”