Do you have any idea what it means for our ski resorts to be wind powered? I visualized many big wind turbines sitting on top of the ski mountains. We get enough wind sometimes that it could work! Can you see wind turbines all across the top of the Ten Mile Range? It makes me shudder to think about it, but at the same time, we could generate a lot of electricity!
Seriously, the ski areas are working very hard to make sure that everyone knows that they are now using clean, natural resources as a source of electricity.
Wind power without turbines?
How do they go about using the wind? Essentially, they buy the wind power to replace what they are using. There are now companies that act as brokers for people who want to buy wind energy credits. The company Vail Resorts uses is Renewable Choice Energy, based in Boulder, Colorado. Their job is to connect the wind power producers with the wind power consumers, while at the same time educating and developing more potential customers. Vail Resorts produced a short video clip announcing their new program.
Here is a simple explanation of how it works: The ski areas still get their power from the power company and they still pay their regular utility bill. In addition, they pay a relatively small amount monthly or yearly to replace the electricity they used from the national power grid with electricity produced by wind farms. The more wind powered electricity that feeds into the grid, the less fossil fuel generated electricity is needed. It is something very easy for an individual consumer like you or me to do ourselves.
It can be compared to paying extra for organic food. You are still eating food, it just is better for you. In this case, instead of avoiding hormones and insecticides, you are avoiding nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, the major causes of air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. Renewable Choice Energy charges $15 a month for a family and $5 a month for an individual. The money helping to build more wind farms and to subsidize the clean and green production of wind energy. It helps to balance out the government’s subsidies of the big oil companies just a little bit. (That could be considered a politcal statement, but I am not apologizing for it!)
Breck, Keystone & Copper
Breckenridge and Keystone are using 100% wind power for the ski resorts plus all the company stores and buildings, as do their sister resorts and the rest of the parent company, Vail Resorts. Copper Mountain is also completely wind powered through renewable energy certificates purchased from 3 Phases Energy. Vail Resorts is putting their money where their mouth is by offering a program called Ski with the Wind. They provide a free lift ticket when a family signs up for a year with Renewable Choice Energy. If you don’t ski, you can choose a $50 gift card from Whole Foods instead. Whole Foods uses wind energy for all their stores, distribution centers and facilities. It is the largest Fortune 500 Company to do so.
In Summit County, Arapahoe Basin also jumped on the bandwagon with some innovative environmental practices. They replace 489,250 kWh of electricity a year with renewable energy certificates, enough to power the new Snow Plume Refuge and their snowmaking efforts. They are not running 100% wind power yet, but do other things to boost their customer and employee’s environmental consciousness. As one example, they allow their employees to donate pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to an environmental fund, and the ski resort matches the donations dollar for dollar. An employee committee chooses one or more local, non-profit environmental groups to receive the funds each year. A Basin also suggests visiting www.atmosclear.org for ways to reduce emissions through simple lifestyle changes.
Into the future
You can see that Summit County ski resorts recognize the impact that global warming will have on the ski business. As high in elevation as we are, predictions are that we will still have snow when others don’t, but the impact will still be huge to our economy as well as our environment. If we can each have the commitment that the ski resorts do, this planet just might last a little bit longer than it would otherwise.