Aspen: Resort aims to be carbon neutral |

Aspen: Resort aims to be carbon neutral

ASPEN, Colorado ” The Aspen Skiing Co.’s quest to be a “green” company is forcing it to ponder some tough issues ” like beginning the ski season later and dropping some high-profile events such as World Cup racing.

The Skiing Co.’s new energy plan calls on the company to offset all the carbon dioxide it produces through its operations by 2020 by eliminating waste and tapping heavily into renewable resources.

There are a lot of simple steps the company can take to achieve that goal, according to the report by Auden Schendler, the Skiing Co.’s top environmental executive, and Matt Hamilton, manager of the environmental department.

But the report suggests that Aspen management make some big decisions on operations and energy use.

“What are the consequences of moving to a Dec. 1 opening?” the report asked. “What are the energy costs of holding World Cup vs. the benefits? To what extent are we planning to increase grooming and snowmaking, and what is the endgame there?

“To what extent can Aspen Skiing Company address issues that directly affect our guests and product?” the report said.

Schendler says the company won’t switch its opening day to Dec. 1 from late November anytime soon, but those are the type of conversations that are occurring, he said.

“We can’t necessarily stop what we’re doing. We have to fix what we’re doing,” he said.

A key to the energy plan is to reduce consumption, and therefore carbon emissions, through greater efficiency. The goals are to shave 10 percent off the 2000 consumption level by 2012, and knock usage 25 percent below the 2000 level by 2020.

“Even though we have implemented many successful energy efficiency programs since 2000, our total energy use, and cost of energy relative to operational budget, has risen dramatically,” the report said. “Gas and diesel costs have climbed by 218 percent since 2000. Total energy costs have grown 114 percent.”

Aspen spent about $2.1 million on natural gas, electricity and fuel in 2000, the report showed. That expense soared to $4.5 million in 2006.

Most of increase was because of rising costs of energy, but the company also is consuming more. It produced 30,925 tons of carbon emissions in 2000 and 32,315 tons in 2006, the most recent year examined.

Increased energy costs are “a drag on our profitability” while the increasing emissions “conflict with our guiding principles,” the report said.

Aspen also is working on plans for microhydroelectic plants, which generate power from streams, at each of its ski areas, Schendler said. Snowmass already has such a plant.

Aspen also may build a wind turbine at Snowmass.

An even bigger step is investing in a wind farm. Aspen could commit to a long-term purchase of a power from a wind farm, helping make its development easier, Schendler said.

Schendler said Aspen’s energy plan will include on carbon offsets ” where some type of green effort is taken to offset the energy consumed ” only as a last resort.

Schendler noted the plan only looks at the ski company’s operations. Airplane travel by company officials and its guests isn’t part of the equation, at least not in this plan.

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