Skico puts its ‘green’ reputation on the line | AspenTimes.com

Skico puts its ‘green’ reputation on the line

The Aspen Skiing Co. claims it will apply its reputation as an environmental leader in the ski industry to its controversial development proposal in Snowmass Village.

The Skico and Intrawest, its partner in the Base Village development, have agreed on several steps they will take to make Base Village as “environmentally responsible” as possible, according to Auden Schendler, Skico director of environmental affairs.

“Intrawest and Aspen Skiing Company are committed to creating the ski industry’s first truly ‘green’ base village,” Schendler wrote in a position paper on the village. “In pursuing this goal, the partnership is focusing on energy use, because pollution associated with energy consumption comprises the primary ‘ecological footprint’ of a resort development.”

Schendler is scheduled to present details about the environmental plan for Base Village to the Snowmass Village Town Council this afternoon.

His presentation comes at a time when the Skico potentially set itself up for criticism for being hypocritical on environmental issues. The Skico released its annual self-critique on its environmental performance last week. In that report, called the 2003 Sustainability Report, Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell said the company will speak out more often and try to play a greater role on environmental issues of global importance.

The report barely mentions Base Village.

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The Skico’s timing raises questions of whether a company can be a leader in the ski industry on environmental issues at the same time it’s undertaking a huge development proposal. Critics contend Base Village will overburden the narrow Brush Creek Valley with increased traffic and other consequences of growth.

Schendler countered that Base Village is proposed right where development should be.

“If we were doing a Two Creeks, that would be sprawl,” said Schendler, referring to a subdivision of sprawling luxury homes at the base of Burnt Mountain. “We’re doing infill. We’re building where there are currently parking lots.”

Base Village is proposed in the heart of Snowmass Village. The center of the project will be where there is currently the large parking lot below the Fanny Hill chairlift and the Skico’s administrative building. Some people contend that the village should have been initially developed there in the 1960s instead of creeping up the hillsides.

Schendler claimed the site is a perfect place for high-density development. “Isn’t that where big, huge buildings should be?” he asked.

Location and density debates aside, Schendler contended Base Village will set a new high mark for “green development” by a ski resort operator.

A position paper provided to The Aspen Times by Schendler showed that Base Village will:

– Achieve the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for four commercial buildings in Base Village. Only two buildings in Colorado currently have that LEED certification. One is the Skico’s Sundeck Restaurant on the top of Aspen Mountain.

– Exceed the local requirements on energy efficiency by at least 30 percent.

To achieve those goals the Skico and Intrawest will take steps such as installing efficient lighting in its parking garage, build a centralized heating and cooling plant and commission a third party to monitor energy efficiency in the project.

“The 800-space underground garage, where lights are on all the time, will be a cutting edge example of efficient lighting,” Schendler’s policy paper said. “Standard industry practice in parking garages is the use of high wattage, 200 to 300 watt, metal halide or mercury vapor lamps, which use an enormous amount of energy. We have specified super-efficient 32 watt T8 fluorescent lighting for the garage, a major break from ‘business as usual.'”

The central plant for heating and cooling allows for more efficient engineering than a distributed system.

Schendler contended that hiring a third-party engineer to monitor the village’s energy efficiency is “the single most important environmental measure being undertaken.”

Building commissioning is rare because it drives up construction costs, but it also results in energy savings of 6 to 40 percent, he said.

Even the urinals may be green, so to speak. The Skico is exploring use of waterless urinals in men’s bathrooms. Typical urinals use one gallon of water per flush.

The Skico’s Sustainability Report refers readers to the company’s Web site for “exhaustive details” about the greening of Base Village. Go to aspensnowmass.com/environment and click on “green development.” From there, click on “Snowmass base village.”

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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