Vail Resorts energy plan wins silver |

Vail Resorts energy plan wins silver

Scott N. Miller
Snowmaking at the base of Lionshead.

Using a lot of electricity is a powerful incentive to save a lot, too.Vail Resorts’ efforts to save electricity on Vail Mountain were honored recently by Mountain Sports Media, the publisher of “Ski” and “Skiing” magazines. The publishing company’s “Golden Eagle” and “Silver Eagle” awards were announced recently at the National Ski Association Convention in Savannah, Ga. The big winner was Aspen Mountain, but Vail was one of several “Silver Eagle” winners.While the magazine’s press release commends a plan to build wind-powered electric generators atop a ridge near the resort, that project hasn’t happened yet, and, due to the lengthy approval process required to build windmills on U.S. Forest Service property, probably won’t for a few years. Ski company officials are touting a range of measures taken at Vail that save about $10,000 per year on the company’s energy bill. That works out to about 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, said Luke Cartin, the resort’s environmental coordinator.While a kilowatt-hour is hard to define, Bob Gardner of Holy Cross Energy said the average home served by the utility – including both mansions and studio apartments – uses about 960 of them per month. That means the electricity saved at Vail would power eight of Holy Cross’ “average” homes for a year.The savings at Vail come from a combination of large and small efforts. The little things include motion detectors on outdoor lights and using compact fluorescent light bulbs in offices and other facilities. The big things include more efficient snowmaking guns and chairlift motors.The resort also purchases a large block of wind power from Holy Cross. That block of 300,000 kilowatt-hours is enough to power the Wildwood Express chairlift for one season, said company spokeswoman Jen Brown.While Vail Resorts is working hard on its conservation efforts, it’s not alone. Holy Cross also provides power to Aspen Skiing Company resorts as well as the Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs, Gardner said.

“It’s great to see our major customers working on conservation like this,” he said.While the kudos rolled in from the industry, a state environmental group would like to put that good news to work.Jeff Berman of Colorado Wild said he’d like to include Vail Resorts’ conservation efforts in the group’s next ski area report cards, if the company would detail them.”We annually send (Vail Resorts) a survey, and they’ve never responded,” Berman said. “I hope they will this year.”=============Eco awardsHere’s a partial list of Mountain Sports Media’s environmental award winners, with brief comments provided by the company:Golden Eagle, Overall Environmental Excellence: Aspen Skiing Company

With its comprehensive and companywide environmental initiatives, Aspen was described as “a green leader across all industries.”Silver Eagle, Water Conservation: Sun Peaks, B.C., Stevens Pass, Wash.A relatively small ski area in interior British Columbia, Sun Peaks has the lowest per skier water use of any resort in British Columbia.Silver Eagle Award, Energy Conservation: Vail Resort. Silver Eagle Award, Fish & Wildlife Habitat Protection: Stratton Mountain, Vt.The resort’s wildlife programs include a study of Vermont’s black bear population, Mountain Birdwatch (a study of high-elevation song birds), annual stocking of Atlantic salmon and preservation of 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Silver Eagle, Environmental Education: Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore.Mount Hood Meadows continues to develop its education, employee orientation and sustainability programs. Silver Eagle, Visual Impact: Moonlight Basin, Mont.A private ski area located on land that had been heavily logged, Moonlight Basin has instituted a forest recovery program.Silver Eagle, Waste Reduction & Recycling: Keystone.Keystone continues to expand its programs, recycling 1,100 tons of material last season.====================

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