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Skico turns to hydroelectricity

Aspen Times writer

By Steve BensonAspen Times Staff WriterThe ski industry’s first micro-hydro power plant, which will be unveiled to the public and begin operating today at Snowmass Ski Area, will turn snowmelt into dollars for the Aspen Skiing Co. The plant, which has been in the works for three years, will generate power from May through August, when runoff is strongest, by utilizing the resort’s existing underground snowmaking pipes. As snow melts, it will be channeled into the pipes and run through a turbine underneath the Fanny Hill lift to generate electricity. The electricity will be sold to Holy Cross Energy for annual revenues of more than $12,000. “This is the coolest project I’ve ever been involved with – it will blow you away,” said Auden Schendler, Skico’s director of environmental affairs. “In terms of return investment, hydro is your best bet.” The facility is a first in the ski industry, and the project was met with some unexpected hardships, including digging up Fanny Hill twice to repair old pipes. Those expenses aside, which Schendler said are “hard to pin down,” the facility itself cost approximately $155,000. “It wasn’t easy, we had to design from scratch. It’s all custom,” Schendler said. “It was an amazing effort.” Groups like the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management, Holy Cross Energy, the town of Snowmass Village, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), Canyon Industries and the StEPP Foundation donated about $55,000 in grants. “Holy Cross is being a really progressive utility,” Schendler said. “This wouldn’t have happened without Holy Cross and CORE and all the other sponsors.” He said it will take about seven years before the Skico starts making money from the project, but the materials used in the construction are state of the art and shouldn’t need any maintenance for at least 20 years. “It could last 100 years. This is serious industrial equipment,” he added. If the project is a success, similar facilities may be installed on all four mountains, according to the Skico. As for being the first resort in the industry to undertake such an endeavor, Schendler said, “We’re psyched, I think this will put it on the radar.”Any resort with a snowmaking system can replicate this and I think you’ll see more of these.” The public can take a tour of the new facility today at 4 p.m. on Fanny Hill. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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