Aspen, Prinoth unveil cleanest snowcat engine in the industry |

Aspen, Prinoth unveil cleanest snowcat engine in the industry

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
Aspen Skiing Co. Trails Director Jim Giampaolo fires up the new Clean Motion engine technology Prinoth snowcat, which meets the EPA's Tier 4 emissions standards for off-road diesel engines, Monday morning at the base of Ajax. Skico expects its entire 26-cat fleet to be Tier 4 compliant within the next three years.
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

The cleanest-burning snowcat engine to hit snow in North America has been working at Aspen Mountain for the past two weeks.

The cat, made by Prinoth, has been through four years of testing and development in order to meet stringent Environmental Protection Agency Tier 4 emissions standards for off-road diesel engines. But perhaps the better news for cat operators is that the machines didn’t have to sacrifice power and performance in order to meet those standards. In fact, just the opposite happened.

“We lowered emissions by 90 percent and increased the power and performance of the machine,” said Dave Hunter, director of sales for Prinoth in Colorado, at an unveiling event for media at the base of Ajax on Monday morning.

Aspen Skiing Co. has been pleased with the cat, having tested it on the snow during World Cup preparations. Jim Ward, Skico’s director of purchasing, said the World Cup environment is very demanding and the cat “performed flawlessly.”

“We’ll test it at Snowmass a week, and if we’re satisfied with the test there, we’ll order two next year,” he said.

After the Snowmass test week, the machine will head out on tour with Prinoth to other resorts.

The Tier 4 standards dramatically reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, or particle pollution. Prinoth’s new snowcat reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter by 90 percent, Hunter said.

Ward compares it to adding what would be considered a catalytic converter to a car.

“It’s a dramatic improvement, no question about it,” he said.

Auden Schendler, Skico’s vice president of sustainability, isn’t touting the new cat as a fix for larger climate issues but did call it a “best practice.”

“This is a Tier 4 cat that has the lowest emissions of any cat out there, but we’re going to be required to do this (in the future) by the EPA, so again, this isn’t like, ‘We’re so great’; it’s, ‘We have to do it,’” Schendler said. “What is progressive here is that we’re ahead of anyone else trying it. We were testing them last year, so we’re getting them out, and we’ll roll them out as rapidly as we can.”

The new cats are not more energy-efficient. The focus is on emissions, which affect local air pollution, he said.

“Aspen actually has historically had problems with particulate and regional air quality, so this addresses that issue,” Schendler said. “So it’s important, and it’s a step forward.”

The biggest step forward, though, isn’t in gradual equipment upgrades. Schendler points toward the bigger policy picture when talking about corporations going green.

“Historically, corporations and ski resorts have greened themselves operationally. The problem is if you look at the challenge the world faces on climate, that’s not enough,” he said. “So we’re saying this is all necessary and important, but what matters is fixing the policy, which is government needs to intervene on climate and fix it.”

Because Skico leases its entire snowcat fleet from Prinoth — there are 26 total grooming cats across the four mountains — it will make the transition to the cleaner-engine cats quickly. Skico already rotates its fleet about every two years on average.

“We only keep our equipment a very short period of time — it’s kind of like a person who trades in a car every two years,” Ward said. “We keep our cat fleet lean, but we get the very best equipment, only keep it for a couple years, and then we rotate out of it, so we rotate into technology much faster.”

Rich Burkley, Skico’s vice president of mountain operations, expects the entire fleet to be Tier 4-compliant within three years.


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