Junior Nationals 2009 — Raising the Bar

FasterSkierMay 13, 2008

The spotlight of U.S. Cross Country skiing will once again swing around to the Auburn Ski Club Training Center (ASC) and Far West in March of 2009. The U.S. Cross Country Ski Junior Nationals (a.k.a Junior Olympics), an annual celebration and focal event for aspiring cross country athletes ages 13 — 19, comes to Truckee, California. A new goal for the 2009 JN’s is to improve the event’s environmental impact. Nick Sterling — a former top Far West Nordic Junior Olympian, NCAA competitor at Colorado University, and now an environmental consultant in Boulder, CO — will be spearheading the effort. Below is an interview with Nick about what is being planned as “Green” for the 2009 Junior Nationals.

What are you doing differently at next year’s JN’s?

For the 2009 Junior National Championships we are incorporating sustainable and environmentally friendly practices to try and reduce the overall environmental impact of Junior Nationals. Traditionally, JN’s and other large ski festivals have not been focused on trying to reduce their overall environmental impact or footprint, but with the current state of our environment the organizing committee realized something needed to be done to address the impacts of JN’s. We realize with hundreds of the best Juniors and Coaches traveling to Auburn Ski Club (ASC) we will not be able to reduce the environmental impact of the event to zero, but we have identified opportunities to take a large chunk out of the overall impact of the event.

How are you planning on reducing the environmental impact of the 2009 JN’s?

We have profiled the main impact areas of JN’s and are addressing specific initiatives within each area. We have targeted a few main areas of focus:

Energy Conservation, where we will increase the energy efficiency of the facilities at Auburn Ski Club;

Waste Management, where we are planning on diverting as much of the solid waste away from the landfill as we can, through composting and recycling;

Socially Responsible Purchasing, ensuring purchases made for JN’s support fair labor and environmental practices;

Community Involvement, to engage and educate the local community about sustainable practices;

Alternative Energy Generation, we are assessing the possibilities to install wind power at ASC, as well as having a possible portable solar panel demonstration project on site during the week of JN’s.

These areas by no means encompass all of the environmental practices for the 2009 JN’s, as practices are continuing to be developed. So continue to check back to www.xcjuniornationals2009.org for more information. We will be keeping our “Green Pages” updated with current ideas and practices.

Why should you do it in the first place?

Simply, our current path is unsustainable and is impacting our snow, our sport and our lives. The Sierra Nevada is projected to lose 36% of its snowpack in the next fifty years and 70% in the next hundred, according to the Sierra Nevada Conservation Alliance. If we as a ski community cannot lead the way in helping to protect our winter resources, then who will? We can reduce costs, decrease environmental impacts and enhance JN’s by using our resources more efficiently and effectively. We are hoping the 2009 JN’s is a starting point, which will demonstrate how to run a more efficient and effective winter event to the ski community in the US. If we want to protect our snow and environment it is up to us to be the drivers of change. Because we can and we must do better!

What is the end-goal?

Our end-goal is to make JN’s as sustainable an event as possible in order to protect our limited winter resources and stimulate a larger discussion in the ski community about organizing, running and participating in more environmentally friendly ski events.

How will you facilitate a larger discussion?

We are hoping to start a larger discussion with the ski community by showcasing cost-saving and sustainable initiatives at the JN’s and providing a publicly available report at the end of the event addressing the initiatives in detail. Other organizers and individuals will be able to use this report to help plan their own events.

How will this affect the athletes?

The athletes will be a key part of establishing a dialog and context for the event, and helping to bring back the education, willingness and desire for change to their local teams, clubs, and programs. Because ultimately, what we do now as a ski community will decide the quality of their future skiing experiences.

How will you measure success?

We will measure success on several levels. First, we want the initiatives we are undertaking to significantly reduce the environmental impact of JN’s. We will be quantifying the positive impact of all the initiatives and putting out an environmental report after the event publicizing these aspects of the event. Second, we will strongly measure our success by how well we are able to engage and communicate with the participants of JN’s, including the athletes, coaches, parents and sponsors. If we succeed with the above, then hopefully next years JN’s will continue the work we have started. Then we will know we have done our job well.

Anything else to add?

In the next few months our event website — http://www.xcjuniornationals2009.org — will begin to fill up with additional information about the 2009 JN’s, so check back for updates. I also want to say that the entire Nordic community here is excited to be hosting the Juniors again and we are looking forward to working with the volunteers, sponsors, athletes and coaches for a successful 2009 Junior National Championship.

Nick Sterling is the Green Venue Coordinator for the 2009 Junior Nationals. He is also a research associate at Natural Capitalism Solutions in Boudler, CO and additionally consults for various businesses on sustainability.

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