Green ain’t easy: Aspen Skiing Co. says emissions cuts ‘viciously difficult’ |

Green ain’t easy: Aspen Skiing Co. says emissions cuts ‘viciously difficult’

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ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. faces a “viciously difficult” challenge to achieve a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 10 percent by 2012 from its 2000-base line level, Auden Schendler, the company’s executive director of sustainability, said Wednesday.

The Skico reduced its total emissions from 30,639 tons in 2008 to 30,295 last year, according to the Aspen Snowmass 2010 Sustainability Report, which was released Wednesday.

The report measures how much fossil fuel is burned and, therefore, how much carbon is emitted, by Skico activities. Everything from making snow to operating the Little Nell Hotel figures into the calculation. The Skico became a leader in the ski industry specifically, and in the business world in general, by producing a report that scrutinized its own performance. It came out with its first report in 1999, and now produces them every other year.

The 2010 report shows examples of steps the Skico is taking to reduce its carbon footprint, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the task. Emissions are down 4.3 percent over nine years. The Skico has only three more years to pare off another 5.7 percent.

“We think we can do it, but it’s going to take a big capital investment,” Schendler said.

One big step would be to replace all boilers for the Little Nell Hotel, a $500,000 project, according to Schendler. Another important part of the equation is replacing parts of the snowmaking system with more efficient equipment, something that’s in the pipeline.

Even with those steps, reducing the carbon emissions is difficult because the Skico’s operations are growing. There are more summer activities and greater use of snowmaking. That results in the Skico burning more fossil fuels that produce carbon emissions. Those greenhouses gases cause climate change. The Skico’s extensive environmental policy is concentrated on one goal – battling climate change.

Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan reinforced that point Wednesday while speaking to more than 200 members of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association at an annual meeting at the Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain. He said the company is lobbying for regional and national legislation to reduce carbon emissions, as well as trying to reduce its own emissions. The fate of the ski industry, and resorts like Aspen, depends on stopping climate change, he said.

“We really do need to put a price on carbon if our kids and grandkids are going to enjoy skiing and snowboarding in this valley,” Kaplan said. “We can’t continue as we are.”

Schendler said it will be irrelevant if the Skico reduces its carbon emissions by the targeted 10 percent by 2012 and 25 percent by 2020, but no national action is taken with a carbon tax.

But even taking care of its own carbon isn’t a given.

“I’ve maintained all along this is viciously difficult and we can’t do it alone,” Schendler said. National legislation is needed, and power suppliers such as Holy Cross Energy need to add renewable sources to their mix.

The Skico teamed with the U.S. Forest Service to explore if wind turbines were feasible on the Cirque, a high ridge above the Big Burn section of Snowmass Ski Area. The Skico was hopeful because installation of four turbines could provide two-thirds of the company’s power needs.

“The wind isn’t good enough to support the giant turbines we were looking at,” Schendler said.

The problem isn’t with a lack of wind. There is plenty of it – it’s just too turbulent, he said.

Skico officials will continue to explore all ways to reduce carbon emissions.

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