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Symposium to honor former Skico exec

Aspen Times Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Pat O’Donnell exited his post as Aspen Skiing Co. president and CEO last November, but he’s still making news.

The Mountain Travel Symposium this week announced O’Donnell has been selected to receive the inaugural Mountain Travel Industry Achievement Award. According to a news release, he was chosen as the first recipient for “his long-time activism and leadership in environmental protection in the ski industry and his “unique and especially meaningful contributions to the mountain travel industry.”

“Mr. O’Donnell’s pioneering environmental efforts in the ski industry made him the clear choice for our first MTS Industry Achievement Award,” said Ralf Garrison, co-founder and partner of MTS, in a press release. “His vision, leadership, and unflagging support of forward-looking and creative solutions have set a standard of excellence in the ski industry that will serve as a model for years, if not decades.”

The National Ski Areas Association reports that 55 resorts in 14 states are buying renewable energy to offset all or part of their operating energy use, and 26 ski areas power 100 percent of their business with “green” energy ” primarily wind and solar-generated power.

The Mountain Travel Symposium credited O’Donnell with much of the change in the ski industry’s attitude toward the practice of buying renewable energy on the path toward being green.

“Considering O’Donnell’s background before arriving in Aspen in 1993, it isn’t surprising that he would be one of the first in the ski industry to step up and take action to protect the environment,” the press release notes. “A native of San Francisco, he ran the Yosemite Institute for five years before joining the team that developed Keystone. He went on to fill the CEO positions at Kirkwood Meadows, Whistler Mountain and then Patagonia.

Under O’Donnell’s lead, Aspen was the first in the ski industry to convert its fleet of heavy equipment vehicles to biodiesel fuel. Other initiatives followed and not all of them necessarily looked good for the bottom line ” including the decision four years ago to begin purchasing wind credits to power the Skico’s operations. They kept ratcheting up their purchases until last year when they hit 100 percent ” a decision that created a domino effect throughout Colorado and the ski industry when other resorts quickly followed suit, the symposium noted.

The formal presentation of the Mountain Travel Industry Achievement Award will be April 18 at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Whistler, B.C., where O’Donnell will be presenting his views on sustainability and diversity along with an Aspen case study.


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