Home Publisher's Point of View A Worthwhile Chat with Vail Resorts’ Senior Director of Sustainability

A Worthwhile Chat with Vail Resorts’ Senior Director of Sustainability

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I spoke this past week with Kate Wilson, Senior Director of Sustainability at Vail Resorts. Watch for an article based on my conversation with Kate soon on Green Lodging News. One of my favorite things to do at Green Lodging News is chat with those who are leading the efforts at our industry’s largest companies to reduce waste, carbon emissions and water consumption.

For those of you not familiar with Vail Resorts, it operates 37 world-class mountain resorts and urban ski areas through its subsidiaries. It also owns and/or manages a collection of hotels under the RockResorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Vail Resorts Development Co. is the real estate planning and development subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc.

Just last month, Vail Resorts released its 2019/2020 season EpicPromise Progress Report. In the report the company announced major advancement toward its Commitment to Zero goal to reach a zero net operating footprint by 2030. First, the company said it has reached its 50 percent waste diversion goal nine months ahead of schedule. “Our zero waste to landfill goal is the one most difficult to achieve,” Kate told me. “Jurisdictions have different rules.” She added that getting a banana peel to a composting location from a 10,000-foot-high mountain location is not a simple task. Kate credited Vail Resorts’ guests for contributing significantly to the reduction in waste.

Solar, Wind Power Projects

Also in the report, Chairman and CEO Robert A. Katz shared that the company had finalized a contract to provide 100 percent renewable electricity to Park City Mountain. Along with five other local partners in Utah, Vail Resorts completed a two-year journey to finalize details on development of a new 80 MW solar project 60 miles west of Salt Lake City. Once complete in late 2022, Vail Resorts will purchase enough solar electricity annually to power Park City Mountain 100 percent. This builds on the news last summer that the large-scale wind farm Vail Resorts had enabled had come online. That wind farm alone will address 90 percent of the company’s electricity usage.

It was in 2017 that the Vail Resorts team was discussing its sustainability goals. Kate told me that it was Katz who suggested the zero net operating footprint goal. Anyone familiar with Katz’s work would not have been surprised. One of the articles I first published in 2006: “Vail Resorts to Offset 100 Percent of Energy Use Through Wind Power Purchase.” That was back when the company had just five mountain resorts. Last May, Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, New York Times bestselling author and founder of Elana’s Pantry, announced a donation of more than $2.5 million to provide immediate support for both Vail Resorts employees and the mountain towns where the company operates.

Behind every ambitious hotel company impact reduction plan is a leader unafraid of setting ambitious goals and more than ready to pony up dollars to help his own team and local communities. I hope you can say the same of your company’s CEO.

Once again, be sure to watch for my Personnel Profile of Kate and take the time if you can to read through Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise Progress Report.

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