In July, 2017, Vail Resorts, one of the largest ski and outdoor sports companies in America, announced its Epic Promise For A Zero Footprint campaign. It was a three-part program designed to reduce its net emissions to zero by 2030, send zero waste to landfills by the same date, and to have a zero corporate impact on the forests and habitats it operates in.
“Everything we do at Vail Resorts is driven by the spectacular natural surroundings where our employees, guests and communities live, work and play. The environment is our business, and we have a special obligation to protect it,” says Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts. “As a growing global company so deeply connected to the outdoors, we are making a commitment to address our most pressing global environmental challenge and protect our local communities and natural resources. With our ‘Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint’, Vail Resorts is both doing the right thing for the environment and for our business.”
On November 13, Vail Resorts revealed that it had entered into a multi-million dollar 12-year virtual power purchase agreement that will make it possible to obtain all the electricity it needs for its North American operations from the Plum Creek wind farm in Wayne County, Nebraska. Plum Creek is being developed by Lincoln Clean Energy — a division of Danish wind energy company Ørsted.
Vail Resorts will purchase 310,000 megawatt-hours of wind energy annually — enough to supply the electrical needs of all its North American operations, which include not only the Vail and Crested Butte ski areas in Colorado but also the Stevens Pass Resort in Washington, Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, and the Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire. The VPPA will make Vail Resorts the first major leisure and hospitality company in North America to supply all of its electrical needs with 100% renewable energy.
“This agreement is just one of many ways Vail Resorts is working to be an industry leader in preserving the environment by bringing more renewable energy online,” says Rob Katz. “While we continually work with local, state and federal governments and utility partners to find ways to source renewable energy in the markets where our individual resorts are located, this wind power purchase agreement allows us to make a measurable impact on climate change — and its effect on the planet — within just a few years.”
Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services acted as an advisor to Vail Resorts for its selection of the Plum Creek project. John Powers, vice president of renewable energy and cleantech for Schneider Electric, tells CleanTechnica in an e-mail, “2018 has shown that corporate interest in renewable energy is greater than ever, both in the U.S. and abroad. And companies such as Vail Resorts are taking action and a leading position. They’re setting a standard and moving their industry forward.”
Vail Resorts has recently signed a contract with Xcel Energy of Colorado to support a new solar energy facility and is prodding Rocky Mountain Power — a utility company in Utah that has shown little interest in renewables up to now — to pursue a proposal that would add 308 megawatt-hours of renewable energy to its energy mix.
Zero Waste Initiative
Vail Resorts is also pushing ahead with plans to significantly reduce the amount of waste products it sends to local landfills. That initiative involves eliminating single use plastic plates, cups, and utensils in dining areas, switching to compostable straws, constructing composting facilities throughout its resort communities, and using waste-tracking sensors to help better measure current waste streams and identify inefficiencies. Those moves are expected to keep more than 400 tons of waste products out of local landfills over the next two winter seasons.
Kudos to Vail Resorts for taking the initiative needed to be good stewards of the Earth as it pursues its business activities. If only their example would influence national leaders to adopt similar renewable energy and zero waste policies, America could truly become a leader in the world community again.
[Correction: The original article stated that Lincoln Clean Energy’s Plum Creek wind farm is in Minnesota, but it is actually located in Wayne County, Nebraska.]