Skico hangs ‘green’ shingle |

Skico hangs ‘green’ shingle

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Skiing Co., already doling out advice to ski areas on how to become more environmentally friendly, has made its role as a consultant official.

The company announced Wednesday that it has established an environmental consulting practice, Aspen Sustainability Associates, as part of its Environmental Affairs Department. Auden Schendler heads the department. In fact, Schendler is the department and will direct the consulting practice, as well.

His clients won’t be limited to ski areas. Aspen Sustainability Associates will be available to advise businesses of all sorts on how to “green up” their operations.

The Skico’s latest environmental effort has actually been in the works for some time. Making it public yesterday ” on the heels of Tuesday’s release of a U.N. report on the threat global warming poses to ski resorts ” was no coincidence, according to Schendler.

“You know, it’s what we’ve been saying forever,” he said. “Ski resorts, at some point, will need a climate strategy. That point is now ” or it’s already passed.”

The Skico created the ski industry’s first Environmental Affairs Department in 1997 and has established a track record in environmental innovation among ski area operators.

As a result, the company frequently fields calls from other ski areas that want information about what the Skico is doing, according to Schendler.

For example, when the Skico pioneered industry use of biodiesel, a cleaner burning fuel, in its trail-grooming machinery, others wanted to know how the experiment panned out.

“When we switched to biodiesel, we got a call from Arapahoe Basin: ‘Hey, did it work?” Schendler said. Since then, six other resorts have switched to biodiesel fuel, he said.

The Skico is in a unique position to offer the consulting service, Schendler noted, since it has actually undertaken a lot of the environmental efforts it’s talking about.

“We’re offering to help other businesses do what we’ve done, minus the pitfalls and obstacles,” he said in a press release.

Aspen Sustainability Associates will provide assistance in environmentally friendly development and building design, corporate climate change strategies, renewable energy procurement and generation and the like at a time when mounting evidence suggests global warming should be an issue of paramount concern to the ski industry.

“First, we’re not going to solve the world’s environmental problems alone,” said Pat O’Donnell, Skico president and CEO, in the press release. “We need others on board.

“Second, from the volume of phone calls we get requesting advice, we simply don’t have the resources to provide it for free. And finally, we’ve developed a huge reserve of experience and credibility in the past few years.”

Since creating its Environmental Affairs Department, the Skico established the industry’s first, and only, green building policy and constructed one of the world’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, according to the company. It is now working on a second.

It established the concept and practice of sustainability reporting in the ski industry, created a foundation to support local environmental causes and will be buying wind-generated power to supply 3.5 percent of its energy needs by the end of this year, according to Schendler. The company’s goal is to be running on 10 percent wind power by the end of 2010.

This week, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands all received an A grade from the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition, which annually assigns scores to ski areas for their environmental friendliness. Snowmass received a B, up from a C last year, Schendler noted, though there have been no substantive changes there since last year.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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