The green games
Dear Editor:A recent letter to the editor (Feb. 7) accused the Aspen Skiing Co. of not practicing the environmental stewardship we espouse, citing the pollution associated with snowmobiles at the X Games. Assuming that X Games is an event generally supported by the community (an Aspen Times poll conducted Monday showed that 78 percent of respondents felt the X Games should stay in town after 2007), then it is our obligation to hold the games in the most environmentally responsible way possible. This is consistent with our overall environmental commitment, which presupposes that we must remain viable as a business. We’re assuming that canceling the event to get rid of the snowmobiles is not on the table any more than closing our doors to skiers is an option. At the X Games this years, ESPN, with our help, took a number of remarkable steps that set a very high bar for environmental stewardship. ESPN calculated emissions associated with snowmobiles, generators and electricity, and offset those emissions through the purchase of carbon credits from Holy Cross Energy. In planning the event, I told ESPN there was no greater step they could have taken to green the Games. Taking responsibility for the tourists it brings to town, the X Games contributed to RFTA to support their biodiesel program, covering the cost of running all valley buses on a blend of clean, renewable biodiesel during the games.The Skico and the Natural Resources Defense Council brought Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to town to capitalize on the fact that we had a potential audience of tens of thousands of youths. In addition, to reaching more than 500 people at the Wheeler, RFK Jr.’s talk reached thousands more on GrassRoots TV and local radio. Better still, the NRDC unveiled a climate campaign with three new 30-second television spots featuring X Games athletes. Look for these public service announcement on RSN TV and elsewhere. (Reaching the X Games audience of 37 million with an environmental action message carries far more environmental benefit than anything we do on the ground.) Based on suggestions from locals, we radically improved trash and recycling service this year and switched to a local waste hauler to keep funds in the community. Ongoing Aspen Skiing Co. environmental measures helped reduce the impact of the Games as well: our use of biodiesel in snowcats; wind power for the main Buttermilk lift; and the construction of the superpipe base out of dirt, which saves 5 million gallons of water and $15,000 in energy. All of this happened thanks to a huge and sincere commitment from ESPN to green the Games, and it was done without fanfare. In fact, there was so little fanfare that the author of the letter wasn’t even aware of these efforts. In order to greenwash, you need hype. And in the case of the X Games environmental program, there was little to none. Now we wish there had been more. Auden Schendler Director of Environmental AffairsAspen Skiing Co.
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.