Environment

FITZSIMMONS CREEK RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT

The Project

The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project team broke ground in July 2008 and the plant was operational December 2009:

  • Located on Fitzsimmons Creek in the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
  • Produces the equivalent amount of power to match the total annual energy consumption at Whistler Blackcomb.
  • The project returns the power it generates back to the grid, essentially replacing what Whistler Blackcomb takes from the grid.
  • Located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area, the run-of-river project produces 33 gigawatt hours of hydro electricity per year – the equivalent of powering the ski resort’s winter and summer operations including 38 lifts, 17 restaurants, 270 snowguns and countless other buildings and services.
  • The Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project has a single turbine with a capacity of 7.9 megawatts.
  • Soaring high in the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola at 436 metres/1,427 feet above Fitzsimmons Valley, guests can look down on the Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project below.

Stakeholders

  • The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project is owned by Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Limited Partnership, a partnership between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Ledcor Power Group.
  • Whistler Blackcomb is a strategic partner in the project.
  • The power generated by the project is sold to British Columbia’s hydro electric utility, BC Hydro and Power Authority under a 40-year term.

Environmental Impact

After six years of studies and planning, it was understood that Fitzsimmons Creek was an ideal stream for a run-of-river project. The creek area provides the ultimate conditions for a successful small hydro electric project:

  • There is an abundance of water.
  • The area has the necessary vertical drop.
  • The diversion reach (stream length between the intake and powerhouse) is not fish-bearing.
  • It is not used recreationally within the project area.
  • The creek is already tied extensively into Whistler Blackcomb’s snowmaking system.
  • Much of the area that has been developed for this project runs along an existing access road for Whistler Blackcomb’s operations.
  • The project does not require above-ground transmission lines and the lines can be buried through a previously disturbed area.
  • The project also supports the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s 2020 plan, which lays out a vision for success through 2020 based on the three pillars of sustainability; economic, social and environmental.

Awards

  • Whistler Blackcomb was awarded the Golden Eagle Award for Overall Environmental Excellence at the 2010 National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) National Convention and Tradeshow.
  • Golden Eagle judges recognized Whistler Blackcomb's involvement in the development of the Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy project.
  • This is the highest honour given away by the ski industry’s environmental watchdogs.

SUSTAINABILITY IN FOOD & Beverage

Commitment to Sustainable Operations in Every Way

Whistler Blackcomb is a company comprised of mountain lovers who interact with nature every day in the very place they live, work and play. As such, there exists a deep, personal relationship between its many employees and the natural environment. These are the relationships that have made Whistler Blackcomb the company that it is today with a commitment to sustainability that extends throughout every aspect of the organization, including the Food & Beverage department.

Waste Reduction

Through responsible purchasing, innovative waste solutions and an aggressive composting and recycling program that has reduced the company’s overall garbage by a further 37.3 % since 2008, Whistler Blackcomb strives for zero waste one day at all mountain food and beverage locations.

Environmental initiatives across 17 restaurants include:

  • Providing reusable Coca-Cola cold drink cups and coffee mugs instead of single-use cups.
  • Use of reusable dishes and cutlery in serveries.
  • Signage at facilities to create public awareness on recycling and composting.
  • Recycling and composting facilities both in public areas and staff areas.

Through such efforts, Whistler Blackcomb has made significant strides in reducing waste:

  • 165 metric tonnes of materials were recycled in 2010
  • 202 metric tonnes of organic waste was composted in 2010
  • 833,100 cups - Reduction in single use cups from 2008 to 2009 (when the program was launched) at the three largest alpine facilities: Roundhouse, Rendezvous and Glacier Creek
  • 37.3% reduction in garbage since 2008 (equal to 317 metric tonnes less garbage)

Local Food

In the continued quest for quality, Whistler Blackcomb’s Food and Beverage teams are committed to sourcing the finest in local and regional ingredients, while delivering healthy options and exciting new flavours to valued guests. From locally grown Pemberton potatoes to fantastic BC wines straight from the Okanagan Valley, Whistler Blackcomb’s restaurants use local ingredients as much as possible.

Ocean Wise Seafood Program

Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem. Whistler Blackcomb is a proud participant in the Ocean Wise Seafood Program. All fish and seafood served at any of the 17 food and beverage locations comes from a sustainable source.

Spirit Bear Coffee

Coffee with a conscience

Whistler Blackcomb’s partnership with the Spirit Bear Coffee Company is stirring up awareness. Recognizing a need to help protect the endangered Spirit Bears, the organic coffee company not only named their business after them, they have also pledged to donate 5 per cent of net profits towards preservation the Spirit Bear’s home, the Great Bear Rainforest. Spirit Bear Coffee is now being served at all of Whistler Blackcomb’s 17 mountain top restaurants and dining facilities, helping protect these majestic animals, one cup of coffee at a time.

Lift development – SYmphony express

The Symphony Express Chairlift Project

The Symphony Express high-speed chairlift opened on December 16, 2006, providing access to 1,000 acres of skiable terrain in an area newly crowned the Symphony Amphitheatre. Previously accessed only by hiking in and out, the Symphony Express provides a unique in-bounds backcountry experience to skiers and riders.

Construction Phase

  • Through both an internal and a public consultation process, Whistler Blackcomb placed habitat protection at the centre of its 2006 Symphony Project, which involved expanding its terrain into an alpine area known as the Piccolo Peak/Symphony Basin.
  • A project team consisting of a ski area planner, lift engineer, biologist, black bear researcher, and professional forester worked on a sustainable design to accommodate a lift with a 2,400-person per hour capacity, without altering the natural wildlife and fish ecosystems.
  • The team developed a minimalist design that kept wildlife habitat intact. Ultimately the project’s footprint was reduced to less than five per cent, down from an original estimate of 40 per cent.

Symphony Amphitheatre Facts & Stats

Type of lift:

High Speed Detachable Quad

Length:

2,112m/6,929ft

Vertical Rise:

509m/1,670ft

Top Elevation:

2,034m/6,673ft

Bottom Elevation:

1,525m/5,003ft

Terrain:

1,000 skiable acres

Terrain Type

Open bowl, glades, two cut trails

Terrain Grade

Low intermediate to expert

Reducing The Footprint:

  • The team focused only on removing trees that were between tree islands or that presented a disease threat. This process mimics the natural succession of forests at higher elevations, as trees need to cluster to survive. Forest species composition was essential, leaving trees that represented a minority species as a percentage of the overall stand. Seventy per cent of the stand was sub-alpine fir with the remainder being hemlock and cedar.
  • Each day during logging operations photos and observations were made at all designated visual corridors. Changes were made on a daily basis to ensure no linear or other unnatural visual affect occurred.
  • Trees were removed via helicopter and all lift towers and assemblies were placed via helicopter, ensuring minimal impact on the ground.
  • This selective forestry approach, called a “silviculture prescription,” enhanced lichen production for deer and berry production for black bears.
  • Denning and wetlands areas were completely safeguarded from development.
  • Landings for harvested trees and lift tower assembly were allocated in a different watershed where ground was already disturbed.
  • The bottom lift station location was relocated to stay out of sub-alpine wetlands
  • Setbacks were established for water courses, ensuring no unnatural sediment flow.
  • All lift foundations were built over the snow ensuring ground disturbance was reduced to the foundation site only. This work was done in April/May 2006 under a one to three meter snow pack. Thirty-five to 40-tonne excavators worked overnight and early morning while the snow pack was firm. Meanwhile, fuel was flown to work sites.
  • Limited blasting work was performed only by hand drills.
  • Course woody debris was prescribed at the direction of a biologist.
  • Fuel loads were assessed to ensure low future fire threats.

Micro-Hydro Project

  • In addition to reducing the ecological footprint of the Symphony Express, Whistler Blackcomb also implemented a renewable energy source to power several man-made features related to the chairlift.
  • This 10-kilowatt turbine in Flute Creek, which is adjacent to the Symphony Chair, powers the lights and heat for the lift hut and washroom at the base of the Symphony Express Chair.
  • The micro-hydro project was the first project of its kind for the ski resort.

Awards

  • In 2006, Whistler Blackcomb received the Tourism British Columbia Award for Environmentally Responsible Tourism and was recognized for its work on the Symphony Express.
  • In 2007, Whistler Blackcomb received the Silver Eagle Award for Fish & Wildlife Habitat Protection for the development of the Symphony Amphitheatre.

Introduction

Whistler Blackcomb continues to work towards its worthy goal of one day achieving a zero operating footprint focusing on such areas as: energy conservation, waste reduction, sustainable development, ecological and wildlife protection, as well as staff and guest involvement.

Whistler Blackcomb Named One of Canada's Greenest Employers for the Fifth Year In a Row

For the fifth year in a row Whistler Blackcomb is proud to be named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. The award recognizes Whistler Blackcomb’s energy conservation efforts in 2012 which resulted in electricity savings of 1.4 million kWh - enough energy to power 140 houses for a year. As a result of Whistler Blackcomb’s new snowmaking monitoring program, on-mountain restaurant retrofitting, and replacement of over 5,000 light bulbs on both mountains, Whistler Blackcomb realised energy savings equivalent to five per cent of its annual consumption.

Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project

Whistler Blackcomb invested the better part of six years to spearhead a micro-hydro renewable energy project on Fitzsimmons Creek in the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Finally in July 2008, ground breaking began on a project that would produce the equivalent amount of power to match Whistler Blackcomb’s annual energy consumption. The project was operational in December 2009 and remains a key element of Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental strategy.

Located entirely within Whistler Blackcomb’s operating area, the run-of-river project produces 33 gigawatt hours of hydro electricity per year – the equivalent of powering the ski resort’s winter and summer operations including 38 lifts, 17 restaurants, 270 snowguns and countless other buildings and services. The project returns the power it generates back to the grid, essentially replacing what Whistler Blackcomb takes from the grid. The Fitzsimmons Creek Renewable Energy Project is owned by Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Limited Partnership, a partnership between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Ledcor Power Group. Whistler Blackcomb is a strategic partner in the project.

White Bike Project

The summer of 2011 saw a new type of transit system operating within Whistler Village; the White Bike Project was launched. The white bikes were introduced by Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental team to enable smooth, efficient travel of employees between the company’s various buildings in and around the base area.  The concept is simple. The bikes are signed out from each building, and signed in at the next building, enabling staff to get around quickly for meetings etc. The program has been well received so far, with high use by staff and even company directors. Like the resort’s thriving black bear population, the white bikes will hibernate for the winter and will then re-emerge with the spring thaw.

Energy Savings – A BC Hydro Power Smart Company

Whistler Blackcomb is recognized by BC Hydro as one of its top 10 Power Smart Partners, selected from companies across the province. This recognition comes from years of investing in energy saving initiatives across the mountains’ facilities and operations, and working on awareness building and behavioural change programs with employees. Whistler Blackcomb energy conservation projects represented a savings of over 1.3 million kilowatt hours in 2010/11, or the equivalent amount of power it would take to run 74 homes in British Columbia for one year.

In the 2010/11 season Whistler Blackcomb participated in three new energy conservation projects representing over 1.3 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in electrical savings including: a behavioral program in partnership with BC Hydro to reduce energy use in all on-mountain buildings; a Continuous Optimization program at the Roundhouse Lodge to save an estimated seven per cent in energy; and an efficient lighting project in Whistler Blackcomb’s staff housing. Efforts continue into a new season with completion of the lighting project to add occupancy sensors and replace T12 light bulbs (including the upgrading and replacement of fixtures and ballasts where necessary) in remote buildings across the company, thus saving 44,000 kilowatt hours per year and an estimated $35,000 in energy savings.

Getting To The Projects With The Biggest Impact – Energy Monitoring, Targeting and Reporting Project

To get to the root of energy usage across Whistler Blackcomb’s operations, the company has spent three years (2009-2011) installing 26 sub-metres to monitor usage in specific areas. Prior to the installation of the sub-metres, energy usage was only tracked via two BC Hydro installed metres – one for Whistler Mountain and one for Blackcomb Mountain. Metring helps Whistler Blackcomb determine which parts of the company’s operations consume the most energy, enabling it to focus resources on projects that will have the biggest environmental impact. One particular area of interest is the company’s massive snowmaking operation. The sub-metres have revealed that in 2010/11snowmaking accounted for 30% of the company’s entire annual energy consumption, and that it was expended during a four-month period. 

To help combat energy usage and find opportunities for savings, real-time monitoring has also been introduced with alerts being provided to staff when usage targets are exceeded. This enables a real-time response to spikes and issues, versus having to wait until season-end reports are generated to gain understanding. The winter of 2011/12 will reveal the results of this project and measure the impact that monitoring/reporting will have on energy consumption.

Food And Beverage

Whistler Blackcomb’s massive food and beverage operation implemented a major reduce/reuse/recycle campaign across 17 restaurants to significantly reduce waste. Efforts have resulted in a 37.3% reduction in garbage since the program was introduced in 2009, equalling 317 metric tonnes less garbage. Initiatives included providing reusable Coca-Cola cold drink cups and Seattle’s Best coffee mugs instead of single-use cups, use of reusable dishes and cutlery in serveries, signage at facilities to create public awareness about recycling and composting, recycling and composting facilities in both public and staff areas, and a review of purchasing habits. In 2009, an incredible 833,100 single use cups were saved from ending up in the trash at the three largest alpine restaurant facilities: Roundhouse, Rendezvous and Glacier Creek.

Staff and the Environment

Employees are an integral part of Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental strategy. Through carpooling, employee donations, volunteerism and environmental stewardship, Whistler Blackcomb staff make a big difference. Such employee awareness and participation is, in part, why Whistler Blackcomb is named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers in 2009, 2010 and 2011, recognizing employers who are leading the nation in creating a culture of environmental awareness in their organizations.

Habitat Improvement Team (HIT)

Facilitated by Whistler Blackcomb, with extensive community involvement, this environmental team is dedicated to improving wildlife habitat throughout Whistler Resort. Since HIT’s inception in 1997, more than 100 projects have been completed. Community members and employees get together every second Tuesday to work out in the field on projects (followed up by the obligatory après session at Merlin’s).

Operation Green Up

Established in 1998, this $1.5 million mountain restoration enhancement program is designed to enhance and restore the mountain ecosystems. Primary objectives include erosion control, applying planting strategies/seed mixes that enhance wildlife populations, enhancing visual appeal, and utilizing native species wherever possible.

Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Environmental Fund

With contributions from both staff donations and the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, the fund supports community environmental projects as well as providing expertise and resources to see projects through to successful completion. To date, the WBFEF has contributed more than $220,000 to 46 local projects.

Employee Carpooling Program

Whistler Blackcomb encourages its employees to carpool. Over 40 employees participate in a carpool program that utilizes five company vehicles and is estimated to save 64,000 kilometres of driving – equalling a reduction of over 200 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

Mountain Clean Up Day

Each spring, Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental department organizes a mountain clean up day in which employees volunteer to remove garbage that remains on the ski runs and around food and beverage facilities after the snow melts.

Staff Education

Whistler Blackcomb’s environmental team attends approximately 50 staff training sessions and weekly meetings per year to outline the company’s sustainability programs, reaching more than 2,000 staff members. The team has established four internal working groups focused on sustainability planning in the areas of water, energy, transportation and procurement. Whistler Blackcomb employees participate in events to showcase sustainability programs including: Earth Day, Clean Air Day, Environment Week, the Commuter Challenge and Mountain and Valley Clean-up Days.

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