Vail Resorts runs with environmental torch |

Vail Resorts runs with environmental torch

Nicole Frey

EAGLE COUNTY- Sustainable Slopes Day, held in late February, was a day to tell the public about the green things ski resorts were doing.Although the National Ski Areas Association is no longer promoting one environmental event, Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort say they will continue to host the event that increases public awareness.”For us, it’s a great day to get the word out,” said Luke Cartin, Vail Mountain’s environment coordinator, who has participated in the event since he started working for the resort five years ago. “It’s our responsibility to let people know what we do, and we’ll continue to have an event like this.”For Vail Mountain, Sustainable Slopes Day included displaying energy or fuel-efficient equipment and putting up signs about the resort’s green practices. Cartin gave talks at the Colorado Ski Museum and guests were invited to ski with a naturalist. In Beaver Creek, guests were asked to help the U.S. Forest Service plant a tree with a $10 donation and were given packets of flower seeds to sprinkle on the mountain. “It’s been a neat day for us each year,” said Christina Schleicher, spokeswoman for Beaver Creek Resort. “It gets people really thinking our environment, our footprint on the mountain, and we want to go forward with it again this year.”How much is enough?While Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort will carry on Sustainable Slopes Day, the National Ski Areas Association will trade one day of environmentalism for more season-long campaigns, said the association’s Geraldine Link. “It has made a huge impact, but we thought it needed some new blood,” Link said. The association will encourage ski resorts around the country to sell $2 tags to guests, and resorts will then use the money to purchase green power. The association will also work with Cliff Bar and famous athletes to produce public service announcements promoting green practices, she said. The association will still promote the Keep Winter Cool campaign, an effort supported by both ski mountains that provides signs on how people can reduce the effects of global warming. “We’re supported by the National Resources Defense Council, and they just think the campaign is the best thing since sliced bread,” Link said. “They wouldn’t be partnering with us if we weren’t doing enough for the environment.”Link said she is heartened by Environmental Defense’s interest in partnering with the association to promote green practices. And although she said the ski industry is doing more for the environment than many other businesses, those condemning ski resort practices remain.”The Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition is always trying to find something bad to say,” she said. The coalition annually grades ski resorts. In 2005, Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort received D’s. “Of course, more can be done, but we’re leaders in this,” Link said. The benefit of objectivity Critics are also encouraging ski resorts to get independent, third party environmental assessments, saying voluntary programs, like Keep Winter Cool, misleads guests into thinking the resorts are environmentally sound. Aspen Skiing Co. hired the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO 14001, to audit the resort in October, but Cartin said Vail Mountain won’t go that route. “I don’t know if ISO is the right way for us to go,” Cartin said, adding the ISO 14001 process is geared toward manufacturing, such as large-scale chemical plants and car manufacturers. “I think it might not be the best fit for us.”But last fall, Vail Mountain starting talking about getting an assessment from another group that hasn’t yet been chosen. Schleicher said Beaver Creek Resort would consider an independent evaluation, but hasn’t yet because it has its own environmental management system in place.”We’re already doing a lot of the same things a separate group would do,” she said. “We’re tracking electricity consumption and water usage.”Schleicher is also proud of Beaver Creek’s Spruce Saddle Lodge – the first ski resort restaurant to be recognized by the Green Restaurant Association. Energy audits by the state and the environmental learning center on the mountain help the resort to feel environmentally conscious. Beaver Creek’s efforts are mirrored by Vail Mountain’s purchase of wind power and recycling efforts.”I think that we have a sound plan,” Schleicher said. “Hopefully our guests are recognizing the recycling, the certified green restaurant, the efficiencies in snow making, the signage.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or Vail, Colorado

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