Sunday, November 09, 2008


I heard (through the grapevine) that an eco-terrorist threat was made against Vail Resorts. That rumor was somewhat confirmed when an all-resort e-mail was sent out, alerting people to stay aware of suspicious people, packages, vehicles, etc. This morning I got to work and one of my employees said that an arsonist tried to set fire to The Keystone Lodge and Spa this morning. The fire department responded and, as far as I am aware, no major damage was done to the building (minus some hefty smoke damage repairs that will need to be completed).

When I heard of the threat of eco-terrorism against this company, I was a little confused. After all, Vail Resorts has taken great lenghts to be a leader in the "green" movement. Yes, I do know that each resort leases its property from the U.S. Forest Service, and the land is used for recreational purposes, rather than being left as undisturbed forest. I know that. However, there are many regulations in place to preserve the natural environment. Certain ski runs/parts of mountains are closed off at times to allow for animal migrations. In the past two years every entity of Vail Resorts has switched to 100% wind energy. Recycling is a huge initiative; so much so that Keystone has its own internal Environmental Department to facilitate it. The idle-wise program prohibits any company vehicle for idling longer than five minutes. Rob Katz, the CEO, has called for an Enery Layoff, requiring that all departments reduce their energy consumption by 5% this fiscal year. As a result, most departments have fully switched to CFL lighting. All on-mountain dining facilities (and many other restaurants) have switched to all natural and organic dairy and meat products, as well as sustainable seafood.

It boggles my mind even more that The Lodge & Spa at Keystone was selected specifically as a target, considering that they recently did a $2 million renovation which put environmentalism at the forefront. They used flooring made from recycled materials, swtiched to all-natural treatment products, installed a super energy-efficient heating and ventilation system, and even selected uniforms made of hemp.

For a large publically-traded company, I think that Vail Resorts is going to great lengths to protect and preserve the environment. Sure, some of the motivation for doing so is probably to achieve good PR. I'm not suggesting that all of the "green" initiatives are purely altruistic. After all, it has been stated that the pristine mountain environment is the company's greatest asset. Vail Resorts Inc.'s success as a business depends on the preservation of the environment. Self-serving? Yes. Ultimately good for the environment? Still yes.

I don't want to come across as a company bobble-head, blindly nodding yes to everything Vail Resorts does. There are certain company actions that I do not agree with at all--the way merit increases are handled, for example (but that's a whole other topic!). However, I am proud of the way Vail Resorts, and specifically Keystone Resort, works hard to make environmental awareness and stewardship of this earth a high priority in their business practices.

Many years ago, the eco-terrorists did succeed in completely burning down a mountain-top lodge on Vail Mountain. I wonder what their motivation was? Were they trying to draw public attention so they could spout off the evils of the skiing industry? Did they want to destroy a building to deliver a financial blow to the company in terms of re-construction costs? I don't know. But I personally don't think much is accomplished through destruction. If they are so into preserving the environment, shouldn't they agree?

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