Vail It's a cloudy day, and Vail has gotten its first snowfall in weeks - it's good for the skiing, but bad for the array of newly installed solar panels at the top of Eagle's Nest.
Luke Cartin, Vail Mountain's environmental manager, inspects the machines monitoring the panels and squints as he presses a few buttons. The panels, obscured from view by a layer of snow, aren't producing much energy at the moment, he said.
However, when it's sunny and the panels are working at full capacity, the panels can power most of the buildings at Eagle's Nest. It is enough energy to power three households, Cartin said.
The 42 panels are the mountain's first attempt at solar power, and it is only one of many environmental efforts that make Vail an internationally recognized "green mountain," Cartin said.
Since their installation this August, the panels, located on top of the Bailey's coffee shop building, have kept more than 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air.
If the panels are successful this winter, more likely will be installed elsewhere on the mountain.
"We know the theoreticals," Cartin said about using solar energy. "But we're up at 10,000 feet in the Rockies. But they do like cold weather, and we do get a lot of sunshine."
Despite criticism from some environmental groups, Vail Re-sorts said that the company is a leader in environmentally friendly initiatives. Vail Mountain especially has received environmental awards in both the ski industry and among other major companies.
Critics question the harmful impacts of a massive ski resort, worrying about global warming and disappearing wildlife.
"You'll hear all kinds of (opinions) about the ski industry, but if you can't ski in Colorado in 2050, we'll have a lot bigger issues than not being able to ski," Cartin said.
The company has a goal of reducing its energy usage by 10 percent in the next two years, an effort that includes everything from looking at sustainable energy sources to switching over to energy-efficient sources.