Keystone’s green efforts earn prestigious award |

Keystone’s green efforts earn prestigious award

summit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

KEYSTONE ” Keystone Resort’s ongoing environmental accomplishments have earned it a reputation as a leader in the ski industry for green efforts, according to Rick Cables, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, which covers Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas.

Over the past year, the Keystone Lodge signed a one-year contract to buy enough wind energy to offset the electricity used by 40-percent of its room nights, the Outpost began composting vegetable scraps at 11,440 feet and the resort partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the Keystone Science School to create a mountain naturalist tour for its guests.

That’s on top of already using wind energy to power its night-skiing operation, composting at the Keystone Ranch and the conference center and employing a successful recycling program that consistently recycles 1,200 tons of materials every year.

“The whole ethic at Keystone is about sustainability and a very light environmental footprint. We just thought that was neat stuff and they should get acknowledged for it,” Cables said.

Cables and his two deputy foresters recently selected Keystone out of numerous nominees for its prestigious Caring for the Land Stewardship Award, marking the first time a ski area has ever won the honors.

“When we looked at the nominations, Keystone just stood out,” Cables said.

He pointed to the large-scale projects, but also to smaller efforts that have helped Keystone gain a competitive advantage ” things like using old on-mountain signs for fencing and planter boxes and reusing scrap lumber to build mountain bike bridges.

“(The award) says a lot about where our relationship with the Forest Service is in addition to what all we’re doing at Keystone,” said the resort’s environmental coordinator Dave November.

November credits the entire resort for taking a leadership role, saying Vail Resorts engrained mountain stewardship as a core value in its employees long before he joined the game.

“There are things happening all over the resort that aren’t necessarily coming from the environmental department,” November said. “All over the mountain there are people reusing products where they can, making new things from what was up there before.”

November’s newest undertaking is the mountain naturalist tour.

Along with the Forest Service and Keystone Science School, he created an interpretive brochure that guides guests through five stops on the upper Schoolmarm trail, explaining prominent county landmarks and local history. It addresses mining, forest management, wetlands and the effects of the mountain pine beetle, as well as identifies tree types on the mountain.

So what’s in store for the future at Keystone?

November said he’ll continue to seek ways for on- and off-mountain facilities to boost their energy efficiency. Right now, he’s working with the Keystone Lodge to install more efficient lightbulbs throughout the building.

Another goal will be staying on top of the incentives for creating on-site power generators.

For Keystone, that would likely be the use of solar power as opposed to seeing wind turbines spinning atop the mountain, November said.

It’s a concept for the future, but one that’s already popping up in some areas: The Forest Service and the Keystone Stables recently collaborated to build a solar-powered cabin at the stables, he said.

“The beauty of the Keystone area is … south is basically straight toward the mountain so it gets a lot of sun in the winter,” November said.

Mountain Sports Media also awarded Keystone Resort athe Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction and Recycling in 2002 and 2004.

A-Basin: Arapahoe Basin purchases enough wind energy to offset the electricity used to power its entire snowmaking operation, the two top lift operator houses and the snow plume refuge and ski patrol headquarters at the summit. It also has an extensive recycling program, offers reusable dishes in the cafeteria and gives discounted lift tickets to those who carpool to the mountain, among other initiatives.

Copper Mountain: Copper runs three environmentally friendly buses that are 60 percent more efficient than its standard buses, uses energy saving lighting in many of its large buildings and recently installed a centralized control system to monitor the lift engine room heat, saving 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. All Copper-owned restaurants and food courts and many offices recycle. This season, Copper hired an environmental manager, who will focus on developing a comprehensive recycling program for the resort.

Vail: Vail Mountain powers three lifts by wind energy and announced plans two years ago to construct wind turbines on Ptarmigan Ridge to produce power. It continues to conduct feasibility studies regarding the renewable energy source.

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