Green Light On
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After decades of wiping trees off mountains, plunking down swanky high-rise condos in alpine paradises, and spewing diesel fumes into the air, the ski industry is finally starting to wake up and smell the CO2 . Surprisingly, they're being led by one of the ritziest players out there: Aspen Skiing Company. In 1997, prompted by growing concerns about climate change, ASC president and CEO Pat O'Donnell, 66, created the resort's Environmental Affairs Department, the American ski industry's first. Two years later, Aspen hired superstar enviro Auden Schendler, 34, a former corporate-sustainability researcher at energy-conservation nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, as its environmental-affairs director. Under Schendler's guidance, ASC (which operates Ajax, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass) started recycling everything from bottles to building materials, and implemented guidelines that call for all new construction to incorporate improved insulation, sustainably harvested wood, recycled carpeting, and more efficient cooling and heating systems. Aspen now has an on-slope, no-impact microhydroelectric plant, which uses snowmaking runoff to power a turbine, and an employee foundation that in seven years has raised nearly $700,000 for conservation projects. Need more? Ajax's Cirque chairlift runs on wind power, and 5 percent of Ajax's energy purchase comes from renewable sourcesmore than any other ski resort in the country. Even the snowcats and snowmobiles at all four ASC mountains run on biodiesel. Schendler's efforts have garnered the resort numerous awardsincluding certification from Switzerland's International Organization for Standardization, which evaluates operating standards of everything from shoe manufacturers to ski areas. It was the first of its kind awarded to a U.S. ski resort. "In the green-business world, that designation is the Nobel prize of environmental responsibility," says Schendler. "We're in the big leagues now."