January 3, 2009

Top Eco Ski Hills, via Pippa Sorley.

This was originally published in elephant magazine a few years back. Now it’s a blog, on EcoTimes, and now we’re linking to that blog. Ah, good info goes round and round:

When winter finally rolls around, I’m like a kid on Christmas eve. I count down the days and wait with bated breath for the “freshies” to fall. Every snowy morning, I eagerly check the daily snow report to see where the best powder stashes might be. I admit it: I love skiing chairlift-operated ski hills. I thrive on rippin’ it down the Vails and Aspens of the world.

Nevertheless, sometimes I wonder: am I a hypocrite for supporting an industry that requires so much energy and land-use to operate? Is it possible to be an environmentalist and simultaneously a downhill ski addict?

Sure, I’ve done the back country hut trips, but nothing is quite like the high of slaloming freshly groomed “corduroy” first thing in the morning. Perhaps, it’s the security blanket that patrolled ski hills offer, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m a weekend warrior who doesn’t have time to hike 3 hours every time I want to make steep turns. But, if this makes me a hypocrite, then the least I can do is to try to be a mindful hypocrite.

So, how can I be more mindful? I can take the time to honor the majestic land and sublime beauty around me; I can take the time to give thanks to the massive swaths of trees that were cleared just so little ‘ole me – and 12 million other Colorado snow riders – can have the privilege to barrel down powdery slopes with pure ecstasy and delight. But perhaps most importantly, I can spend my dollar where it counts : by supporting ski resorts and businesses that are leading the path toward “skistainability”


When it comes to environmental policy, Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) blows other ski resorts out of the water. Driven by the arson episode in Vail by eco-activists, Aspen and other mindful ski businesses started to question the lack of environmental scrutiny within their $4 billion dollar industry. The “point” finally “tipped” in 1997, when ASC President & CEO Patrick O’Donnell – who previously ran Patagonia – installed its very first “Environmental Affairs” department, directed by Auden Schendler, who has spearheaded programs and initiatives that go way beyond green. In fact, his “Sustainability Report” was the first of its kind within the ski industry, and has garnered attention from consumers and competing ski resorts alike. ASC is one of the first businesses in America to be ISO-14001-certified. To me, this sounds like a type of oil change, but it represents one of the most stringent third-party certification programs that demand strict criteria for environmental responsibility.

“Climate change should drive everything we do,” says Schendler, who previously worked at the Aspen-based think tank, Rocky Mountain Institute. “We make our living off the environment. The least we can do is take care of it.” In light of this commitment, Aspen Ski Co has taken a plethora of steps to reduce their impact, and, in doing so, have managed to impress such environmental watch dogs as Natural Resources Defense Council and United States Green Building Council.

Plans are in development for a massive new base village in Snowmass – a $400 million dollar project – in which all buildings will be 30% more energy-efficient than required by code. And, ASC is one of the first ski resorts to offset 100% of its energy use with wind power. Here are some other impressive examples of how ASC is leading the way:

...keep going…read about the best on Ecotimes.

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