Enviros praise Vail Resorts | VailDaily.com

Enviros praise Vail Resorts

Alex Miller

VAIL ” Reaction from the environmental community to Vail Resorts’ announcement was largely positive Monday.

Sloan Shoemaker with the Aspen-based Wilderness Workshop called it “tremendously good news” while Ben Doon with the Ski Area Citizens Coalition said it was a “great step.”

Doon’s group issues a yearly report card on the nation’s ski areas, grading them on their environmental sensitivity. Typically, Vail Resorts’ mountains have scored low, due in large part to ongoing base-area development. But the wind power should kick them up a notch, Doon said.

“They’ll get more points in the renewable energy criteria,” he said. “I’d hope to see a domino effect, with other resorts following Vail’s lead. We were waiting for them to do this.”

He added that Vail Resorts’ move may have been influenced by that of Aspen Skiing Company, which announced last March that it would offset 100 percent of its electricity with wind credits. Aspen’s purchase amounted to some 21,000 kilowatt hours, and it was the first ski area to make the 100 percent commitment to wind.

Shoemaker said the decision by Vail Resorts is particularly poignant because the western end of the surrounding White River National Forest is being subjected to a good deal of natural gas drilling and exploration.

“It’s good corporate leadership they’re showing since this will eliminate some of the need to despoil the other end of the forest (with gas drilling),” Shoemaker said. “This is exactly the kind of corporate responsibility we need to accelerate our move beyond fossil fuels.”

Doon said buying wind credits is relatively easy to do and well within the reach of a company the size of Vail Resorts.

“Symbolically it’s good for the ski industry to recognize problems with emissions and greenhouse gases, and how sensitive the industry is to that,” he said.

Ryan Bidwell, executive director of the environmental group Colorado Wild, said he supported the direction Vail Resorts is taking.

“I think it’s encouraging to see Vail taking a leadership role in supporting renewable energy,” Bidwell said. “Hopefully, this will be a pattern of environmental responsibility the corporation will pursue under its new leadership.”

Roger Singer, the regional representative for the Sierra Club in Boulder, said Vail Resorts’ decision to go with wind is part of a larger movement nationally by businesses and state and local governments.

“It’s a smart business choice for Vail Resorts,” Singer said, referring to a recently published study saying the Colorado ski industry could be finished by 2100 if the effects of global warming aren’t reduced.

“We hope this becomes a trend with other ski towns, since these are the first communities to recognize the immediate impacts from global warming,” Singer said.

Smaller efforts like companies buying wind power are necessary, he said, because the federal government isn’t providing that leadership.

“I wish the Bush Administration would take a proactive stance, but unfortunately they’ve ignored it far too long because of a continued addiction to oil,” Singer said. “So we look to local solutions like this.”

In addition to efforts by companies like Vail Resorts, Whole Foods, Starbucks and New Belgium Brewery, cities like Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen have signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Singer said Sierra Club is leading the drive to have more mayors sign on.

“We’re hoping to send a message back to Washington, D.C. that if they’re not going to address this on a federal level, then we’ll do it on local level,” Singer said. “It’s what the public wants and what cities and states see as an important issue.”

Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or amiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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