Resort leaders speak frankly about the essentials for sustainable resorts: commitment, culture, collaboration, and a champion.
In year two of the SAM Summit Series—a collaborative leadership development project where industry up-and-comers learn from respected resort bigwigs—the 10 mentees take more of an active role in the program, asking questions during the conference calls and engaging more with the group of nine renowned industry leaders.
Sustainability is an important subject, and the three mentors on this call—Rich Burkley, senior VP of strategy and business development at Aspen Skiing Company, Peggy Hiller, VP of operations at Arapahoe Basin, Colo., and Kim Locke, VP at Lake Louise, Alberta—are leaders at resorts that lead the industry in many aspects of sustainability.
In addition to participating in calls such as this one, each mentee is paired with one of the mentors, and they’ve been connecting at least once a month this winter for one-on-one phone calls. This has allowed the mentees to pick the brains of their mentors even more. The result is more sharing, more learning, and more professional growth. We hope this format contributes to more ideas about how to grow participation in skiing and riding, too.
Dr. Natalie Ooi of Colorado State University’s graduate Ski Area Management Program has been working with the mentees on additional deep-dive projects following every call. This work reinforces what was discussed, and allows the mentees to expand on what they learned.
Thank you to Dr. Ooi, as well as the Summit Series sponsors MountainGuard and Leitner-Poma. And thank you, as always, to Paul Thallner of High Peaks Group for his expert facilitation of each call.
The following is the transcribed call in its entirety, lightly edited for clarity.
PAUL THALLNER: We’re talking about sustainability. It's an important practice that many resorts are involved in and have been for quite some time, even before it became fashionable. I'd love to hear from each of you about some of the sustainability initiatives you’ve been involved with, or one in particular that really stands out to you as indicative or symbolic of the decision-making process that goes into it.
PEGGY HILLER: Well, one of our very first initiatives dealt with waste, which I think is certainly one we would qualify as low-hanging fruit. And it was tricky. It wasn't just strictly landfill bins, and recycling bins right next to them. We really went all in on compost as soon as we possibly could, and this is probably six or seven years ago.
It took a while for everybody to really truly understand what we were trying to do with waste and there was push back, making it more tricky, let's say, for our food and beverage world. It led to us rethinking plastic silverware versus regular silverware. There was definitely good conversation going on there.
But then the trickiest piece, and it still is, is how do we help our guests to understand how to throw away stuff. As I'm sure you've experienced in your life, you get a tray of food and you're not sure where you put things at the end when you're finished with your meal.
So that was the big piece for us. But more than anything, I think it really embedded a culture of sustainability here at Arapahoe Basin. Because it was something that somebody had to figure out how to make it work for them, whether they're a guest or employee, every single day that they were interacting with the Basin.
PAUL: I was wondering, so what was the genesis of that idea? How did it come to be when you sat around as a leadership team to say, we should definitely do this, or here's some things that might make it, some reasons that we wouldn't do it. Give us some insight, a fly on the wall perspective of that conversation, of how you got to yes on that.
PEGGY: At Arapahoe Basin, we're not the biggest employee area, but we have somebody who is our hero of sustainability. She actually just won that award from NSAA last spring. Her name is Sha Miklas, and she is our senior sustainability manager. She is passionate about sustainability and brought that passion to Arapahoe Basin.
She also wears the hat of being our guest services manager and she knew that it was the right thing to do, that it felt good, that it was the right thing to do for the earth and where we're headed but it was hard to get everybody on board that we could also make it work from a business perspective.
And there were definitely some stops and starts on how this works. We actually make a commitment because we can't find a waste hauler to pick up compost for us. We've had to get people involved from our own staff to take those smelly bits of compost to the landfill at least twice a week.
I would say it was a little bit of a, pardon the pun, organic decision, and then grew into what we've really wrapped our heads around, what it all entailed, a major conversation at the executive level.
PAUL: Thank so much. Kim, can you share an example or a story of a decision-making process around sustainability that you and your team experienced?
KIM LOCKE: So obviously summer is huge discussion in the industry—how to maximize revenue and keep everything going over the summer. And so, when we first started looking at expanding summer operations, probably 20 years ago now, the question was, what are we going to do? Do we do mountain biking? Do we do all these other various typical activities that you do in the summer?
And what we ended up deciding was, no, we're not going to go that route. We are going to center our summer programming on nature and interpretive programming to really showcase our location in the national park and what we have to offer that may be unique and different to what some other areas offer.
So, we've got a lot of bears. We've got black bears and grizzly bears, but it's the grizzlies that we're most concerned with in our area. So, one of the primary challenges was what to do to minimize human-bear interaction and allow the bear to live and exist with minimum interference from people.
The solution that we came up with was actually an electric fence to basically keep people out of the areas that bear frequent. They really like hanging out on our open ski runs because of the vegetation that grows there. So, they basically situate themselves on the ski area all summer long.
So what we do is we enclose our base area and our mid mountain lodge with these electric fences, and no one is permitted to enter into the grizzly bear habitat. And then if a bear happens to wander up into the upper alpines, we close our hiking trails so that they can have their space.
We had to give up mountain biking, we had to give up mountain coasters. We had to give up a lot of stuff because of the fact that we share the mountain with the bears and then also we want to protect our vegetation as well.
The other thing that we do is close down the mountain to staff and visitors by 7 p.m. because the bears have free reign at dusk, that’s when they're most active and they tend to take this time to themselves.
So, in terms of costs it's really hugely expensive, and we forgo a lot of revenue for events, weddings, other activities. But it's basically what we need to do. In terms of the decision-making process, we had to basically make that strategic decision that Lake Louise is a unique ski area. We've got something to offer that other areas don't necessarily have. And let’s leverage that to the extent possible. So, we've centered ourselves on wildlife viewing, interpretive programming, and try to make the economics of that work as much possible and just kind of be who we are and not be scared of that. We don’t need to be the same as everybody else, but really offer the consumer something different and take it from there in terms of trying to make the economics make sense.
We would probably make a lot more money if we could have mountain biking, but you've got to deal with what you've got and leverage that to the extent possible.
PAUL: That is really interesting, and we'll get into some discussions later about tradeoffs and other things that need to be considered and thought of as these big decisions get made.
But I can only imagine the dialogue and discussion. Being around that conversation that led you to that conclusion that it makes more sense for you whether it's your organizational philosophy, your values, or just kind of purely to differentiate yourselves. It's really very interesting to hear that story.
RICH BURKLEY: We had, several years ago, gone through the usual drills on efficiency. We had retrofitted everything to fluorescent and, later on, to LED. We had composting, recycling, and we had begun to focus on energy and one of our goals was to be carbon neutral.
When we started firing up snowmaking systems and 44 lifts, I realized that all of our initiatives, no matter how effective, they were not going to even come close. So, we were looking for other things, and we looked at micro hydro, and we did do a micro hydro project and probably will do more.
But the one that resonated the most was coal-fired methane. We have a bunch of abandoned coalmines in the area, not necessarily in Aspen, but in nearby valleys. We were able to get the rights to lock one off and capture the methane bleeding out of the mines to run generators.
So, I think it's been now six years. We were able to do that, and then sell that electricity back into the Holy Cross power grid. And we put in these three, one-megawatt generators, so we generated three megawatts. It's been going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year since we opened it. We have not shut down for one hour. And it generates baseline power for the grid. And combined using that year-round, it offsets our electric use over 100 percent. But more importantly, methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. It's 23 times more dangerous than carbon. So, to eliminate that, the carbon offset was even bigger.
The best part of this project is it makes money. It actually has a positive NOI. So, the investment was several million dollars, but we've been pulling down $600,000 to $700,000 a year in electric sales after the investment was made, and we continue to do that for the life of the mine, which we anticipate being 30 to 50 years.
PAUL: Can you maybe walk us through—someone must've come to you with an idea, or someone came to someone with this idea, to capture methane. From the time that this idea came to you to the time it actually got implemented, about how long was that, and what were some of the more dramatic conversations that happened during that time?
RICH: It was certainly not as easy as I made it sound. This is a very common thing in Europe. So, we had seen the concept in play. And if you go to central Spain, most of the area is powered off of abandoned mines and I think Hungary does a lot of it as well.
So, the concept was there, and we had a big mine accident about 15 years ago where the mine was abandoned. It was a machine that got crushed or buried in the mine and it made it ineffective for it to keep going on. So those two things kind of started the conversation. Once we started looking into it, it became extremely complex. You know how you see those offshore oil wells, where they have that flare going on, well, that is methane that they are burning off. It's a byproduct of oil and coal mining. We had the concept we were now trying to implement, and we knew how much we could get out of the mine.
We knew about three megawatts of power was what this mine could produce. Setting up the generators was the easiest part. The harder part was working with the energy company. So, there are two things that we've learned: the first was that, in the state of Colorado at least, the energy generation companies are separate from the energy transmission companies, so you have to deal with both of them.
The energy generation companies are statutorily capped at how much they can do with coal versus renewables. It's a weird thing set up several decades ago, where they have to burn coal to generate power by law. The third is ownership of the transmission lines. So, to get into the grid to actually use the power, in this particular case, we had to go through three separate companies that owned different transmission lines that are separate from the power company.
We were able to get a waiver through the state that allowed 3 percent of, in our case, Holy Cross' energy to be renewable, and hopefully we're going to get that to a much higher number here in the next few years. And once we did that, we were able to negotiate with the power transmission companies to basically lease their lines to get the energy to whatever is needed.
We don't necessarily know if we use our own energy, it just goes into the grid and is just part of the overall power system.
PAUL: I'd love to build off of that because some of the decision making that went into the decision to capture this methane was financial and I want to turn back to Kim to understand more about the decision making around choosing to support the natural habitat of the bears versus going with a more obvious money-making opportunity with mountain biking. Could you help me understand some of those conversations? What was underneath the surface as those conversations were going on. Were there any internal tugs of war saying we should do this versus that?
KIM: I think that part of it boils down to the fundamental appreciation and recognition of our national-park environment. It's really key and fundamental to everything that we do and every activity that we propose, and projects that we propose. We work in conjunction very closely with Parks Canada, that's the government agency that is in charge of everything that goes on in the national parks. And at the end of the day, we are almost partners in putting on a great ski experience for people.
And so, to push hard for mountain biking or for various other activities is kind of in conflict with that relationship. Maintaining the relationship with our regulators, and governing bodies, and the people that oversee us is really key, because if we don't have that, then we don't have much.
Sure, we could've pushed hard and maybe would have gotten more activity at the end of the day. But after a lot of discussion, it was determined that it's just not right for us.
And so, we made the decision that in the specific instance of summer activities, we are going to give up some revenue in favor of doing what we consider to be the right thing ecologically. Ecological integrity is one of our key values, and so we really wanted to honor that and to say you know what, let's differentiate ourselves into some summer offerings. This is what's right for us, and we'll go all in, and go with that. But it wasn’t an easy decision at the end of the day.
PAUL: Peggy, you said you started with composting, I'm curious to know what the next chapter or chapters of the story will be where you are. Has there been a ground swell of support? Other initiatives happening as a result? What kinds of conversations are happening across the organization to keep that momentum going?
PEGGY: Certainly, composting and our waste stream is a big focus, but it's not been, by far, the only focus.
We actually were awarded a grant through the sustainable slopes grant cycle that the NSAA puts on. And what that afforded us was some hours of consulting from the Brendle Group and we utilized that over the course of last ski season. We've been doing a lot of things. What our focus was last ski season was to work with our executive team of eight people, and really come up with a sustainability strategic plan that is deeply rooted into the financial performance and the financial success of Arapahoe Basin and then the rest of our overall company strategic plan.
We have been doing, as I said earlier, a lot of other sustainability initiatives, including adding solar panels to new buildings, lighting retrofits, we were very fortunate to receive other sustainable slopes grants. We put vestibules and different entryways and we did a lot of other capital projects. But I feel like for the first time now after going through this process with the Brendle Group, which did take several months, we actually have a really good road map for the whole entire organization that our whole executive team is on board with and supports our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.
PAUL: Sounds like there's a lot going on there, and many sustainability efforts. It seems like once you get the ball rolling it can really sort of expand logarithmically in all directions, which is fantastic. It's great to hear.
PEGGY: You just have to make the case for it to make business sense, and that's finally what I feel like we harnessed last year.
PAUL: It’s good to know that there are organizations out there to support your work and help make that possible, and to put it in language and terms that everybody can relate to, to make those decisions around.
MEGHAN WILCOCK: To me, adopting sustainability practices seems like a win-win, but I'm not in a position to do much more than gently suggest ideas. Do you have advice for someone who is passionate about sustainability but feels unable to make sustainable improvements?
KIM: That's an interesting question, because I think it was referenced earlier that at times it is a trade-off between the economics and the sustainability. So, I would recommend, if you are having trouble within your organization getting traction with your ideas, to examine the economic aspects a little bit more first yourself. Talk it through with people. Because at the end of the day, the decision makers, the executives in the organization, they may very well be on board with the project, but they may not be on board with it at the cost involved.
We've had this discussion a lot in our organization as well, with projects that have been proposed by various stakeholders because, well, that sounds great, but when we work through it, it's not super affordable. So, what else can we do to try to bring the costs down? There might be government grants, or there might be a creative solution that just hasn't come to the forefront yet.
One example that we are working through right now is a fairly comprehensive composting program. We haven't really been able to do so yet, because we don't have any municipal compost facilities near us. So, there's basically been no place to take compost. But the town of Banff, about 45 minutes from us, they have recently opened up a municipal composting facility. Everything moves a lot slower in the national parks than elsewhere, so that's why we haven’t had this option to date.
So now we are starting to implement an organic diversion program, but it’s definitely not cheap, it comes at a cost. What we're looking at doing is having someone manually separate all the items on cafeteria trays—recycling goes here, compost goes here. On that note, we're really hoping to get a better recycling capture rate for bottles and cans. Because, surprisingly, a lot of people still throw their bottles and cans in the trash.
Having somebody do that in a jurisdiction like we're in with a $15 minimum wage can add up fairly quickly. And then the trucking of the compost, the capture of the organics, it all comes at a cost. So, what we had to do is we try to look at creative ways that we can still do this, yet have it come in at a total cost that’s not much different than sending it to the landfill. So, solutions are out there, it just takes some creative thinking. And are there grants you can get for this? There's a lot of feasibility grants out there for various initiatives, and that can often help as well.
So, what I would recommend is I think sustainability is a win-win, like you say, but when it comes to individual projects, sometimes costs come in at a figure that is a little bit alarming to the higher executives in the organization. And so, what can you do to make that project look more palatable from that perspective?
RICH: If you present environmental projects that actually return money, I think you've cleared a lot of hurdles, especially with your accounting and finance teams. And for you specifically, like snowmaking efficiency and dirt work if you have a terrain park. You can reduce your overall energy consumption, which is hugely positive, environmentally. Reduce your water consumption and reduce cost. Generally, those things move through much faster than ones that are actual cost to the bottom line, and they're more sustainable.
PEGGY: I would also just add that, if there's something that would fit with your company culture—certainly a bigger project would have a bigger impact, but if [a smaller project] starts to create that culture, if it's not exactly there yet. We shouldn’t be afraid to just start somewhere, start a conversation.
I certainly time it with the good comments from Kim and Rich between looking for grants, making it be a win-win financially as well. But then also, just get the piece of the culture, and maybe who else in your team is in that same camp as you, or you start that conversation somewhere.
PAUL: One thing I'll add to that is finding out from your colleagues and peers who might also have ideas or passion around the subject too, because building a coalition and understanding the momentum in the organization from an organizational development perspective is also really helpful. So, if you put those things together—the homework, the business case, and the fact that there may be some momentum in the organization, can combine to be a really powerful statement, or case to make to some of your leadership in the organization to pay attention to the issue.
PEGGY: The industry has done so much. NSAA has really made a focus of sustainability as well, SAM magazine, the Brindle Group. There are a lot of other resources within the industry, and I don't feel like people have to reinvent the wheel. Just throwing it out there, I mentioned (Shaw Nicholas?), who works for us, she is more than happy to talk to anybody at other ski areas. As well as myself and others at A-Basin about what are some things that might have helped, what are best practices, that kind of stuff too.
GREG VALERIO: In your experience, how would you go about motivating employees to be more eco-friendly, and encourage sustainability?
PEGGY: I've actually found especially as we're in the full swing of the Millennial generation that our employees want us [to be more sustainable]. If we ask them out of the blue, are you interested in working for a company that's more sustainable or not? They are definitely really motivated already about being sustainable and they want to know how to participate.
That may not exactly be the case at every organization, but certainly for the youngest demographic, or the Millennials and the Gen Zs coming in too, they are definitely passionate. So, tapping into that generation, if that's prevalent at your ski area, would maybe be a good place to start.
I also feel it helps if it's part of the training and the culture from day one. We do a pretty big sustainability conversation within our onboarding orientation. And people pretty much know, as they're coming in and starting with us, that this is a really key piece of who Arapahoe Basin is, and we talk about it at every gathering of employees, weekly staff meetings.
We have sustainability plans by each department, so it's a lot of conversation and it's taken us years to get where we are. But getting the managers onboard is really key, too. If they're saying this is a priority to their own staff, their own employees, then they almost don't have a choice If that makes any sense.
RICH: We created an employee driven environmental board, and the participation was actually more than we can handle. I do agree with what Peggy said, it seems everyone up till 45, 50 years old. That generation, everyone seems to be very involved in promoting environmental concepts. So, we do not have any issues with implementation. In fact, we probably get too many ideas that we can realistically accomplish.
KIM: I definitely agree that's it's a bit of an age-related thing, and is demographics related. We don't have any problem at all getting buy-in among the younger members of our team who have grown up in an era of sustainability and, as mentioned, they're often the drivers of a lot of the projects. But sometimes we do run into a little bit of a roadblock when we try to implement things that might be a little bit harder for people to do, who have been doing things the same way for years, or even decades.
What I have noticed is that if we make it easy for people, then they're more inclined to go with the sustainable option. Just a really small example: we now give our staff members reusable mugs, and everybody has a mug, and so there’s no excuse anymore to use a disposable cup in the cafeteria for your coffee, or your tea, or whatever. This has really reduced our disposables use among staff members, and then we give free coffee as an extra added incentive. So just put things front and center and make things easy. And that's often the first step to getting more buy-ins.
ERIC KERTZMAN: In what ways have you made a positive impact and obtained buy-in from environmental advocacy groups and local stakeholders while implementing phases of a master plan or expanding a use permit?
RICH: We’re going through that process right now with Aspen Mountain. We just dropped the master plan with the full service about six months ago and the first two projects have been approved. The local government obviously they are generally are concerned about any type of expansion. And the second component is that they’re concerned about snowmaking and energy and water consumption. Water consumption in Colorado is a pretty big deal.
We actually involved the stakeholders, environmental stakeholders, long before we went to the Forest Service. And we explained what we were trying to do, and we let them have as much input to minimize environmental impacts, number one. And number two, address their concerns. We're fairly successful at doing that to the point where literally less than an hour before this phone call, the Forest Service released a record of decision for the master plan. And I don't believe there will be any objections to that from any of the groups. There could be some outside ones, outside of the state that weigh in.
So that was number one, involvement with the stakeholders. And then number two, I would call it doing the right thing. Aspen Mountain Resort is a former mining camp, and so it is pretty heavily industrialized, but we were able to create pods that we would leave untouched specifically for wildlife.
We do most of our limbing and tree cutting over snow to minimize impacts to the ground. We built a storage pond at over 11,000 feet, which minimizes energy use. It also stores water, which is a valuable thing for the valley, and we release that water when it's needed in the summer. We went through and addressed as many of the objections as we could with a reasonable solution. Some of them that we couldn't address, view-plane issues, we're a ski area and there's going to be runs visible and lifts visible. We do believe, and the Forest Service actually agreed, that creating a ski run enhances the terrain for certain types of animals, especially deer and elk, at high altitudes.
So that was actually a positive in this case, but really, I guess not trying to greenwash and cover up things, but bringing the groups in that will have objections sooner rather than later.
KIM: I definitely echo the fact that involving stakeholders from the front end is absolutely key, and full engagement rather than just kind of consulting and telling them what you're planning on doing. Full engagement is something that is a little bit harder to do, and it's actually listening to what they have to say, and listening to what their concerns are, and being prepared to modify your work plan in response to what the environmental groups are seeing.
We've had some success with that. Right now, we're also fairly far along the line in proposing master plans for the next 10 or 15 years at Lake Louise and we have been very active in involving our environmental stakeholders from the front end in a comprehensive way and we've seen that that is very beneficial for us.
The other thing that I might add that hasn't been touched on yet is to really have a focus on basing your plans on real sound science. We've got a team of ecologists, education specialists, wildlife biologists, hydrologists. Do not be afraid to spend a little bit more at the front end, because it will pay off down the line in terms of getting your plans passed and minimizing opposition to your plan if you really have very comprehensive environmental assessments ahead of time and you have anticipated concerns and you've addressed them ahead of time and you really demonstrate that you are very serious about doing things in an environmentally responsible way.
PEGGY: We are on 100 percent Forest Service land. So, when we do any of our master development planning we need to go through the whole process. It’s very exciting this week, we saw 10 years of hard work pay off with opening up our expansion here at Arapahoe Basin.
Thinking back to the steps we took, we did tours where we actually reached out and invited different members of environmental non-profits and stakeholders along those lines to go out and walk the area that we wanted to expand into, even preview the process of submitting the master development plan to the forest service. So just another example of what Kim and Rich already said about really doing your homework and getting stakeholders aware and involved. You may still get some resistance and some pushback, but at least everybody's going into it with a clear understanding of what you're asking to do.
KIM: Another thing that we did that we had a lot of success with is that we hosted an open house roundtable session between all of the various scientists that worked on our environmental assessment and individuals from the environmental groups. So that they could sit down face to face and chat, and that was very well received as well.
PAUL: There's nothing like that authenticity, right? To make sure that people feel included in the process.
CHRISTINA MATTSON: How do you most effectively coordinate sustainability efforts without having a sustainability office or a designated point person?
KIM: We do have an environmental office and a full-time environmental staff, so they are our point people on environmental projects. But in the absence of that function in an organization, I would say that it would be key to consider appointing somebody to take on that role, even on an ad hock basis. Somebody that can really be a champion for the cause and can be somebody through which all of the information can filter and can really be that point person. In the absence of a full-on environmental office, I am sure it can be a lot more challenging, but there's lots of people that are interested in sustainability, so look for that person within your organization.
RICH: Yeah, I would agree you cannot really have sustained environmental initiatives without a champion. Whether it's any position or just allocated time for people, you have to have people pushing initiatives forward. Dedicating resources to that needs to happen.
PEGGY: I do think that it's really important to find somebody who is passionate. As we have done for many years, we have added onto somebody else's job. But have found a way, and Shaw, who I mentioned before, actually now has a dedicated person who reports to her who is also a sustainability manager, so we've seen it grow.
The other way you could go, too, is if the executive team or executive leadership is really into sustainability and they could build it into their own goals for the organization. Then there may be a way to have it jump start that way until a department can be created, or a position can be created.
PAUL: I'll share some research that McKinsey & Company did that talked about why change efforts fail and it's usually because there is not executive level or high enough level sponsorship, or support for these kinds of change efforts. Whether they're environmental sustainability efforts or any kind of change initiative, you need to have high level sponsorship and buy-in in order for them to succeed in business.
And the other piece is about finding your hidden change agents internally. Those people who have a lot of passion for projects, and have ideas, and can serve as peer champions as well is another part of that building momentum internally.
TESS HOBBS: What areas of the resort do you guys see as having the biggest potential for sustainability savings in the future?
RICH: My perspective, snowmaking is, by far, the largest energy user, the largest water user, and has the most impact on the environment, and reducing snowmaking or making it as efficient as possible is key. Fifteen years ago, I want to say, we burned 100,000-kilowatt hours to make snow, and today we burn about the same amount of energy and we make twice as much snow. That was a conscious effort to upgrade our snowmaking fleet across the board.
Then, reducing water consumption is another huge component for environmentalism, especially in the west. Snowmaking is 80-percent non-consumptive, so it's not as bad as it sounds. But we work with our halfpipes, for example, using dirt work to reduce 10 to 15 million gallons for the pipe build. So, when you look at the X-Games, underneath that pipe it's a dirt form that we make snow over and requires less snow to form that shape.
We have what we call temperature discipline, which becomes a challenge, because as things get warmer, we lose the ability to make snow. But when you're making snow at single digit temps, you're 82 percent more efficient than when you are at 26 degrees Fahrenheit. So, we start off the season with only making snow when it's the most effective from an energy perspective and from a water perspective. As you approach a start of a season or a World Cup, it becomes much more challenging to do that, so we gradually release those restrictions. In a year like this one we had terrific snowmaking, we've had a very cold November, in fact, record cold November. We will now try to finish making snow in November and not fire up at all in December, which will save the company several million dollars, but more importantly reduces the energy consumption by a huge amount as well.
I think from the single biggest environmental perspective snowmaking is the biggest one.
PEGGY: From Arapahoe Basin's perspective, we actually don't have a whole lot of snowmaking. So our actual biggest area to tackle is electricity overall, but in particular, we're trying to make our buildings more efficient and build in better control systems, especially with heating and lighting. And also looking for alternatives, whether it's a microgrid for electricity, like solar installations, or other options here at Arapahoe Basin, or ones that we could participate in nearby to help us get to that carbon neutral goal.
So, it's just interesting. I think Aspen obviously is a very different ski resort than Arapahoe Basin, so it's going be an area that's specific to each ski area and where their consumption of resources is the highest. So that's just my perspective
RICH: There's no question, Arapahoe Basin is at least 2,000 feet higher and I think much snowier than Aspen by far.
PEGGY: Well, we don't have your water, either. [LAUGHS] Or snowmaking capabilities. [LAUGHS]
KIM: Yeah, snowmaking and water consumption obviously are key and if you're just starting in these efforts those are certainly the first areas to look at. Electricity and electric use, obviously, that's an area as well that you can really see substantial savings. And one of the third areas that we have been looking at in more detail lately are waste disposal costs.
We've been able to identify quite a few areas of possible savings just in terms of what we're bringing onto the mountain that needs to be disposed of. How we are separating our waste, what we are doing with our waste, and how we are implementing our recycling programs, etc., etc.
And if you made good efforts in snowmaking and electricity use, then certainly start to look at your waste disposal costs, because that's an area of potential savings as well.