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USSA unveils solar panels

Under fittingly blue skies, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association unveiled its rooftop solar panels on Tuesday afternoon at the Center of Excellence in Park City.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony that featured Olympic athletes, USSA executives, energy consultants and Park City Mayor Jack Thomas, environmental preservation was a recurring theme.

"Being a skiing and snowboarding team and organization, it’s really important to us," USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said. "We’re excited we can have a positive impact on the environment by reducing our energy consumption."

The solar panels were placed at the Center of Excellence thanks to a partnership with Rocky Mountain Power, which provided $112,500 to make the project a reality.

"Rocky Mountain Power and Blue Sky are very significantly connected to renewable energy" RMP Customer and Community Manager Steve Rush said. "This installation will provide over 50,000 kilowatt hours a year. It’s very important for us to be a part of this project with the USSA and we appreciate the example the USSA is setting."

Three-time Olympic cross-country skier Andy Newell said it’s up to athletes like himself to be the voice of environmental preservation.

"As a winter athlete, I feel like it’s our responsibility to use our voices and get people proactive about helping the environment," he said. "Here we are in places like Utah and Colorado where they rely equally on skiing and snowboarding for their economies and thousands and thousands of jobs. It starts with people and organizations making smart decisions. We lead by example on the snow and we do that by competing fair and clean. I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s leading by example with the environment."

Newell said his personal call to action came from a book he was reading.

"A real turning point for me was reading a book by Porter Fox called ‘Deep,’" he said. "Porter Fox is a big-mountain skier and during research for his book he predicted that, if we continue down this same path we’re on now, nearly half the ski resorts in the Northeast will have to close in the next 30 years. That hit really close to home as a Vermont skier."

But, as 2014 bronze medal-winning snowboardcross athlete Alex Deibold pointed out, there’s an added benefit toward saving money on energy costs.

"It’s great on two levels," he said. "We can help support the environment and it also offsets energy costs. USSA is a nonprofit organization and they can put that funding back into the next generation of athletes."

Though adding solar panels to one building isn’t going to save the world’s snow or make a gigantic impact on the environment, Deibold said it’s a start.

"For me, it’s all about the small steps," he said. "The small things you do will add up in the long term."

The 126 solar panels at the Center of Excellence are predicted to save USSA $8,000 a year in energy costs.


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