Skico earns ‘green’ certification |

Skico earns ‘green’ certification

Steve Benson

Environmental distinctions continue to pile up for the Aspen Skiing Co., which on Monday achieved ISO 14001 certification ” an international, third-party recognition of its environmental management program.

If the distinction sounds foreign, that’s because it is.

Aspen/Snowmass is the first ski resort in the United States to receive ISO 14001 certification, joining Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia, Canada, as the only other resort in North America to garner the distinction.

Last summer, the Skico also won the 2004 Golden Eagle Award, recognizing environmental excellence in the ski industry.

ISO 14001 is a strict environmental certification which is not limited to ski resorts ” companies like Xerox and Dupont have also attained it. Essentially, it certifies Aspen/Snowmass as a resort that sets strict standards for continuous improvement in the management of its environmental impacts.

“I think it’s huge, it may be the biggest thing we’ve ever done environmentally at the Aspen Skiing Co.,” said Auden Schendler, the Skico’s director of environmental affairs.

The certification required eight days of audits of both paperwork and operations, conducted by the Vancouver-based ISO auditing firm KPMG Performance Registrar Inc. Auditors explored every aspect of the Skico’s environmental management, from record-keeping to shop operation and individual awareness of its environmental programs, according to a press release.

The certification came a day after The New York Times published an article on the Sustainable Slopes program, which includes more than 170 ski resorts in North America. The article noted a critical study of Sustainable Slopes by Peter de Leon, a professor of public policy at the University of Colorado in Denver.

It’s Dr. de Leon’s contention that most ski resorts in the Sustainable Slopes program unjustly label themselves as green, according to the Times article.

“They’ve talked the talk, but they have not walked the walk,” Dr. de Leon’s study states, according to The New York Times. “Members appear to be displaying free-riding behavior, expecting to improve their ‘green’ reputation without actually implementing it.”

Schendler referred to the study as “scathing,” but contends the Skico is walking the walk. The ISO distinction is a third-party certification ” it doesn’t come from within the Skico or the ski industry, he stressed.

Schendler likened the certification to that of an organic farmer.

“If you’re an organic farmer, that’s great, but how does anybody know?” he asked. “You need to get USDA certification.”

Schendler also blasted critics who claim ski resorts, inherently, can never be environmentally friendly and that their green label is purely a marketing tool.

“I don’t by that at all,” he said.

The Skico was the first resort in the industry to announce a policy to protect the climate and drove support for the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain was one of the first 11 buildings in the world to be certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) program, and the Skico uses 12 percent renewable energy.

“That’s PR?” Schendler asked. “Give me a break.”

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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