Chris Jarnot: Vail Mountain a green leader
Vail CO, Colorado
Something was amiss at the Vail Daily on May 23, 2008. With the one-two punch of an article and companion editorial, the Daily declared that our company was not doing enough for the environment and quoted energy “experts” calling an idea we had discussed to add wind generators on Vail Mountain “toys” and said that we “haven’t shown leadership on the environmental front.”
Ironically, on the very same day, our company announced a new effort to reduce our energy use by 10 percent over the next two years (an effort the Associated Press said reinforced how renewable energy has been a top priority for us for the past two years). To us, the article and the editorial reinforced the notion that in the eyes of some our company can do no right, and it seemed the Daily went out of its way to try to find fault where none existed.
In the past couple of years, our company has launched groundbreaking efforts across each of the most important environmental issues we face. We committed to offset 100 percent of our electricity use with wind power, becoming, at the time, the second largest corporate purchaser of those offsets in the United States alongside companies like Whole Foods, Starbucks and Wells Fargo (see further discussion of this below). We committed to developing Ever Vail, the largest development we have ever undertaken, adhering to cutting-edge green building requirements for both the buildings and the entire design of the project. We entered into a partnership with the National Forest Foundation to raise $600,000 per year for local conservation projects, the largest effort of its kind in the U.S. We committed to serving only organic dairy and hormone-free meats, far surpassing the effort of any other restaurant operator in the country. And this past week we launched an effort to reduce our energy use.
Is there more than we can do? Absolutely. And we will. But if this is not leadership, we are not sure what is. How many other public companies our size have shown this much leadership on the environment? How many other companies in Colorado? Has the Vail Daily itself? And as for mocking our proposed renewable efforts on Vail Mountain ” I guess the old environmental message that “every little bit helps” is no longer operable for the Daily and its “experts.”
Most interesting is that our company did not even announce or tout these “proposed” wind generators. The Daily dug up our plans for them in a proposal we made to the Forest Service and then gave its readers the impression that we had been promoting them publicly as a big deal. Huh?
Finally, since the Daily and its “experts” do not understand it, we do think it’s important for your readers to understand the complexity of renewable energy. Vail Resorts is in the resort and hospitality business and not in the energy-generation business. The key for a company of our size is to find sources of renewable energy than can support our needs. While Jiminy Peak’s 4,600 megawatt hours of power from their wind turbine, or the similarly sized wind turbine Aspen is considering are very laudable efforts, they would not address our need for 152,000 megawatt hours of power every year. The credits that we purchased in 2006 were a way for our company to support that amount of renewable energy elsewhere in the United States, since the supply did not exist in our service area or in Colorado. Our goal is to work with Holy Cross Energy and other Colorado utilities to create more renewable energy in our state and we are having those discussions as we speak. Along the way, our company will be supporting smaller installations experimentally to see if we can utilize a certain number of these projects on the margin. I guess we’ll need to prepare ourselves for criticism from the Daily’s editorial board if any of our ideas don’t pan out.
There are and will always be areas in which our company can do better. However, it would be nice if the Daily brought the same level of thought and diligence to its critiques as it expects our company to bring to the solutions.
Chris Jarnot is the chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.