Copper Mountain Resort native seeding wins Innovation in Sustainability Award
Copper Mountain Resort won the National Ski Areas Association 2021 Golden Eagle Award for Innovation in Sustainability for the resort’s native seed collection program.
Working with the U.S. Forest Service and the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Copper has developed methods to collect seeds from locally occurring plants to replant, helping to restore areas of the mountain that have been disturbed, such as ski trails.
The program originated out of graduate research conducted in 2017 and 2018 by Jeff Grasser, who is now the resort’s project and efficiency manager.
Grasser said the native seeding program helps the natural terrain at Copper Mountain Resort by diversifying and increasing the variety of plants present on a portion of terrain — like a ski slope that has been skied on each winter since it was originally gladed through the forest years ago.
Grasser credited the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District for helping to make the program a reality.
“The power behind this whole thing is really the volunteers that are interested in helping our local ecosystem, and Copper has long, long-standing partnership with (Friends of the Dillon Ranger District) that goes back to years partnering with them for trail maintenance days,” Grasser said.
The program began in 2019, and seed collection events continued last summer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of our advancements is really, truly using native seeds for restoration versus buying seed,” Grasser said. “It’s a really unique thing, having a big bowl of seeds and mixing it all together allows us to perform some advanced restoration practices that have never been done at other ski resorts in the ski industry.“
Grasser said Rocky Mountain Fescue is one of the native seeds volunteers have collected. He added collecting and replanting plants like the Rocky Mountain Fescue benefits the resort’s natural resources because the local plants have benefited from natural selection adaptations over time to the fickle weather above 9,000 feet.
Grasser said he’d like to undertake the native seeding program across 500 acres at the resort over the course of the next decade.
“It’s truly the next step in restoration in terms of effectiveness,” he said.
Grasser said in the future, Copper will work with Peak Ecological, a local independent consulting company and 3Degrees, an independent greenhouse gas accounting company, to sequester carbon from the ski slopes and then provide verification and transparency of carbon offset credits.
“We plan on commencing this carbon study soon to pave the way for providing carbon offset credits by 2031 and beyond,“ Grasser said.
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