Aspen Skiing Co. reduces carbon emissions, addresses perceptions of hypocrisy

Aspen Skiing Co. has reduced its carbon emissions to its lowest level since it started tracking them in 2000, the company announced in its latest sustainability report.

The company produced 25,944 tons of carbon in 2015. That was down 5 percent from 27,310 tons the prior year and from 29,820 tons in year 2000.

Emissions have dropped even though the company has continued to grow because of the sources Holy Cross Energy uses to provide electricity, said Skico Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schendler.

“We realized we could only do so much on our own,” he said. That’s why Skico has placed high stock in working with and supporting Holy Cross Energy’s use of clean energy sources.

Skico produced more carbon emission from diesel fuel and gasoline use at its four ski areas and various properties in 2015 than it did in 2014, according to the sustainability report, released Monday.

Skico also produced 3 tons more of carbon emissions through snowmaking operations compared with emissions in 2014. It reported it used 241,160,138 gallons of water for snowmaking last season, up nearly 40 million gallons from the prior season.

But Skico reduced carbon emissions in two key sectors — electricity and natural gas consumption. Electricity consumption is the single largest producer of greenhouse gases for the company. Skico produced 16,764 tons of carbon in 2015 compared with 18,086 the prior year.

Holy Cross is closing in on a goal to achieve 35 percent clean energy through use of wind, solar, hydro and biomass. It also has teamed with Skico and other partners to produce electricity from methane emissions from a coalmine in Delta County.

Skico’s release of the bi-annual report coincides with its 20th year of pursuing sustainability. It launched the first environmental department in the ski industry in 1997.

The sustainability report takes an interesting look at whether Skico is rife with contradictions and hypocrisy — touting greenhouse gas reductions on one hand while pedaling “unnecessary” luxury experiences on the other.

“How do we reconcile this aspect of ourselves in a world approaching environmental catastrophe and beset with vast human suffering?” the report asks.

The answer is, in a word, complicated. Skico is trying to clean its own house when it comes to carbon emissions. On a larger scale, it is trying to use the leverage associated with Aspen to try to spark discussion of national and even international policy.

Schendler said the only way the company will ultimately reach its goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 80 percent from the baseline is to lobby on policy — keeping the U.S. engaged in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work on a national level to reduce fossil fuel use while promoting green energy.

“We used to focus entirely on our own operations. But then we realized two things: that those actions would not alone solve the bigger problems in the world (climate change) and that we had bigger levers with which to address those problems. So we became more political than technical, though we still change light bulbs and boilers like in the old days,” Schendler said in a prepared statement.

Hard copies of the sustainability report are available at the Aspen Mountain Ticket Office and online at aspensnowmass. com/we-are-different/sustainability-reports.