Aspen Skiing Co. applauds Vail’s climate initiative, vows to work with foe |

Aspen Skiing Co. applauds Vail’s climate initiative, vows to work with foe

A wind farm produces energy in Colorado. Aspen Skiing Co. and Vail Resorts want to explore using more renewable energy with their power provider, Holy Cross Energy.
Denver Post File

Although the resorts aligned with Aspen and Vail are preparing for epic competition for skiers’ pocketbooks, the rivalry stops when it comes to environmentalism.

Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of sustainability, applauded Vail Resorts’ announcement this week that it is aiming to eliminate the company’s entire emissions and waste by 2030.

“This is great,” Schendler said when reached on vacation Wednesday. “This is a major commitment to clean energy by Vail.”

He looks at Vail’s initiative as an opportunity for the companies to work together for environmental gains rather than another front where they compete.

“We’re going to be a voice for climate.” — Aspen Skiing Co.’s Auden Schendler on Aspen and Vail working together

The environmental gurus of the companies already work together on some environmental issues, Schendler said, but now the effort will be ramped up. He believes representatives of the two companies will soon be brainstorming with Holy Cross Energy on ways to increase the amount of renewable energy in the power provider’s portfolio.

“How you skin that cat is difficult,” Schendler said. “It’s hard to do this and it’s hard to do it in a legitimate way.”

Schendler has been critical for years of renewable-energy efforts that look good on paper but don’t actually result in getting more wind or solar farms constructed or hydroelectric plants built.

“You want to be responsible for new, clean power on the grid,” he said.

Vail’s move — formally called the Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint — is monumental for a couple of reasons, according to Schendler. First, the company is large enough with multiple ski resorts in Colorado, California and British Columbia to make utility companies as well as suppliers and vendors pay attention to its efforts to reduce emissions.

Second, Vail Resorts has vowed for the first time to engage in lobbying for government policy. Schendler and Skico have long advocated that it isn’t enough for a company to reduce it emissions; it must also engage in lobbying for policy change.

Vail Resorts is the first company in the tourism industry to join RE100, a global, collaborative initiative by influential companies committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, according to a company announcement Tuesday. That effort has attracted giant corporations such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Facebook and Google.

By taking that step, Vail is doing something Aspen hasn’t done.

Schendler said the perfect scenario would be Aspen, Vail and lots of entities committing to Holy Cross Electric to buy a substantial amount of power at a fixed rate over the next 20 years. That would remove uncertainty of power rates for the resort operators and potentially give the utility company the confidence needed to move ahead with additional renewable energy.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s use of renewable energy is directly tied to the Holy Cross portfolio. Holy Cross said in its 2016 carbon emissions report that about 34 percent of its power came from renewable sources.

Schendler is equally optimistic about joint lobbying efforts with Vail Resorts. Skico’s position is that reducing carbon emissions internally is a worthwhile endeavor, but it uses the Aspen name as leverage to try to coax policy change.

Vail Resorts’ announcement about its environmental initiative doesn’t specifically mention it will engage in lobbying policymakers, though it says it will advise guests of its efforts and work with governments on various levels to “bring more renewable energy to the grids where the Company operates its resorts.”

Schendler views that as helping shape policy.

“We’re going to be a voice for climate,” he said of the resort companies. “That’s the big news — that they’re going to pressure our governments.”

Some of Vail’s plan consists of practices that Aspen has followed for years, such as an annual report on carbon emissions and campaigns to reduce them. But Aspen Skiing Co. isn’t taking credit for Vail’s direction, at least not directly.

“This is what we hoped to see throughout the ski industry,” he said.