Vail Resorts embraces green building

VAIL – Somewhat quietly, Vail Resorts has chosen to make its real estate developments significantly more environmentally benign. Most remarkable of all are plans for a new project at the base of Vail Mountain that is called Ever Vail.

The project, which is penciled in as a $1 billion development, has applied for platinum certification under the LEED program. Platinum is the highest and most rigorous of four levels of LEED, a process sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The website for Vail Resorts – which also operates five ski areas – says that the project will use a variety of new renewable energy sources for heating and electrifying of the Ever Vail housing and commercial spaces.

For example, small hydraulic turbines, called microhydro, are to be installed in Gore Creek, to create electricity used for street lighting. Also planned is installation of ground-source heat pumps, which tap the year-round temperature of the ground 8 to 10 feet below the surface, which is at 55 to 60 degrees. Buildings are being designed to best employ passive solar heating during winter months.

As well, some of the roofs are to be covered with dirt and planted with grasses, to reduce the runoff and improve insulation.

Water reclaimed as snowmelt is to be used as “gray water” in the toilets, to avoid the use of treated, potable water. A “closed-loop” gray water system is planned to wash all snowcats and snowmobiles used for operations at the ski area.

Elsewhere in its operations, Vail Resorts is also raising its goals. In Wyoming, the company is aiming for a gold-level LEED certification – the highest ranking next to platinum – for its 12,000-square-foot clubhouse at the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club.

In Colorado, at its corporate headquarters between Denver and Boulder, Vail has been awarded a LEED-CI certification. In California, a restaurant called Powerbowl Lodge being planned at Heavenly is also being designed to LEED standards.

How soon Ever Vail will get built is a matter of conjecture. While Vail Resorts has high hopes of moving forward soon, the company is engaged in what amounts to a shoving match about another potential development site where the ski and real estate company owns the land, but where town officials have teamed up with another development company.


New company eyes Crested Butte

CRESTED BUTTE – Another mining company has stepped up to the plate, this time paying at least $500,000 to take a swing at that gigantic molybdenum deposit within the bowels of Mt. Emmons, the mountain literally in Crested Butte’s back yard.

The last hopeful, Vancouver-based Kobex Resources, bowed out in March after apparently deciding that Crested Butte was a more formidable project than it had expected. It spent $5 million in nine months of planning how it might extract the molybdenum, a metal used to harden steel and for dozens of other industrial applications.

As it has been for 30 years, the community is largely united in its opposition to the mine. Water quality is the central legalistic argument, but the broader issue is whether a tourism and recreation based economy are compatible with mining.

For a mining company, this adds up to the question of whether the “world class” body of ore, even at $32 a pound for refined molybdenum, is worth the years of ankle-biting opposition that are likely.

The newest company, Thompson Creek Metals Co., a Denver-based firm, is described as much larger than Kobex, with assets of $1 billion. The contract with the owner, Wyoming-based U.S. Energy, calls for the payment of $500,000, plus $1 million annually beginning in January during the next 10 years. The contract gives Thompson Creek an escape clause, but also potential to gain a stake in the property.

Local opponents predict that Thompson Creek will beat a hasty retreat.

“Kobex came in, looked at it, and then decided to get out. I think the same thing will happen with Thompson Creek,” Crested Butte Mayor Alan Bernholtz told theGunnison Country Times. “Once Thompson Creek does due diligence they’ll realize it’s not an ideal location for a mine, because it’s in a municipal watershed.”


Telluride protestors stay on sidelines

TELLURIDE – Telluride residents Phil Miller and his wife, Linda, have been protesting the Iraq War from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., since before the United States invaded that country. Always, Phil has worn his uniform from World War II, when he was a soldier in the Philippines.

“It’s hard for people to imagine what war is like,” he told theTelluride Watch, describing instances of extreme hunger, great cruelty and utter lawlessness still etched into his mind more than 60 years later.

They began protesting the testing of nuclear weapons in Utah during the 1950s when the couple lived, with their two children, in Wyoming. Linda did all the formal protesting, as Phil worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and because of federal laws that then existed, could not express his political feelings. Later, during the Vietnam War, Linda worked with conscientious objectors.

Phil continues to march with other veterans in parades, but not while wearing his uniform. “I’m never going to wear my uniform to a patriotic display again,” he said. “I only wear it to antiwar functions.”

That, however, will not include anti-war protests in Denver this week. While the Millers intend to be at the Democratic National Convention, they said they fear protests might harm the campaign of Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate.

Linda told the newspaper that she partly fears infiltration of the protest by those with the ulterior motive of harming Obama’s cause. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t put anything past them,” she said, presumably speaking of Republican operatives.


Private jets feel the fuel pinch

ASPEN – Bummed about the 12 miles per gallon your SUV gets when gas is $4 to $5 a gallon? Think of what it’s like to hurtle across the landscape in a Gulfstream, an airplane of choice for billionaires.

The newest iteration of the Gulfstream, a model called the G-V, burns 400 gallons of fuel per hour when in the air and even more when taking off.

The expense of travel by this, among the most fuel-efficient of private jets, is staggering, points out theAspen Times’ Scott Condon. He interviewed Cliff Runge, the former operator of a business that serviced private aircraft at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

“On an average three-hour trip, a GV will burn 7,000 pounds of fuel and travel approximately 1,500 miles,” Runge said. That works out to 1.5 miles per gallon.

The economics look better with eight passengers, with the Gulfstream getting about as good as a single-occupant Hummer or some other SUV that gets 12 miles per gallon.

All of this matters in that Aspen has staked out a path to shrink its carbon footprint.

An inventory conducted by the city government, as part of its Canary Initiative, found that 44 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions were caused by air transportation, with about half that the result of private jets.

A new study conducted by the airport found a much smaller direct carbon footprint, partly because many people traveling to and from Aspen use other airports. As well, the airport figured only one part of a round-trip should be credited to Aspen, whereas the city’s inventory figured both legs of the round-trip.


Dissatisfaction grows inside Club 20

GUNNISON – Several of the ski-anchored counties of Colorado’s Western Slope are threatening to bolt from Club 20, the regional public interest lobbying group. The flashpoint for the dissatisfaction is the increasing domination of the group by the booming oil-and-gas industry.

Telluride’s Art Goodtimes, a commissioner from San Juan County, resigned from the organization in April after losing his spot as an elected official within the group to an oil-and-gas industry consultant.

“The club has been taken over by the oil and gas industry, from its recent leadership to its big-gun funders,” he said in his resignation letter.

Two other ski-dominated counties, Gunnison and Pitkin counties – which include Crested Butte and Aspen respectively – similarly compared grievances at a recent meeting.

Rachael Richards, a former Aspen mayor who is now a Pitkin County commissioner, said she is dismayed with Club 20’s stance on oil and gas regulations, which she says pays little attention to the agriculture, tourism and recreation industries.

– Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows