If you think luxury and sustainability can’t coexist peacefully, take a trip to Colorado. A number of upscale resorts in the Centennial State have adopted ambitious programs to reduce their carbon footprints, with some aiming for 100 percent clean electricity. At the same time, guests can still enjoy high-end perks, ranging from spa treatments and designer furniture to award-winning restaurants and world-class hiking and skiing.
Among the resorts that have stepped up their “green game” recently, include Aspen Meadows Resort, Vail Resorts, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, St. Julien Hotel & Spa, and Devil’s Thumb Ranch. You’ll find similar eco-conscious initiatives at more rustic places too, such as Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Green Sky Yurt Retreat, and Opus Hut. Each of these establishments, in their own right, is considering more sustainable practices through initiatives such as renewable energy sources, water conservation, organic products, and energy-efficient appliances.
The fact that this is happening in Colorado shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it’s home to some of the most stunning landscapes in North America with statewide business, tourism and bipartisan political leaders all championing sustainability in various shapes and ways.
Aspen Meadows Resort
Richard Stettner, Vice President for Aspen Campus Facilities and Operations at Aspen Meadows Resort, said “being surrounded by the gorgeous mountains in Aspen is a daily reminder” of his company’s need to be good environmental stewards. “We know that the climate crisis will not wait for a more convenient time, so it’s imperative that we move forward in making changes that will benefit our employees, guests, community and planet by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Stettner said.
Aspen Meadows Resort has become something of an industry leader in implementing environmentally-friendly measures while still offering a posh experience. When you visit, you’ll find Instagram-ready views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains and nearby rivers, a Bauhaus-inspired hotel whose guest rooms feature designer furniture, fine dining, an outdoor lap pool and whirlpool, and numerous other amenities spread over 40 acres of meadowlands and forests.
You’ll also find a resort that reopened in June with an eye on 100%clean electricity and a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 59 percent by drawing energy from Colorado’s wind, solar, and hydro-power sources. It makes sense that Aspen Meadows is at the forefront of energy innovation. The resort also doubles as the home of The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit think tank that addresses issues ranging from climate change and social justice to education.
The Aspen Institute’s Energy and Environment Program – along with its volunteer Green Team – have built a commendable record on the environment. Leaders have implemented a robust recycling program, embraced sustainable and local ingredients at all three of the resort’s restaurants, and ensured that the hotel’s conference center is LEED Gold certified. The resort has also installed a commercial-grade composting system for food waste.
Other Resorts in Colorado
A similar clean energy initiative has been undertaken by Vail Resorts, which owns and operates about three dozen resort properties in three countries, including four in Colorado. In July, Vail Resorts announced that it has committed to purchase 310,000-megawatt-hours (MWh) of wind energy per year from the new 82-turbine Plum Creek Wind turbine. The turbine is expected to address more than 90 percent of the company’s current electricity use across its 34 North American resorts. The goal is to reach 100 percent renewable electricity as part of Vail Resorts’ “Commitment to Zero” sustainability pledge.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort took a different route to renewable energy, led by the municipality where it operates. In June 2019, the City of Glenwood Springs officially switched over to clean-energy electricity through the use of 100 percent wind-generated power, making it the second city in Colorado, and seventh in the U.S., to be fully powered by wind, solar or hydro sources. Even before the city’s decision, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort had already been a leader in sustainable practices. It has long used geothermal energy to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also has replaced all of its incandescent light fixtures with LED bulbs, replaced aging appliances and air conditioners with more efficient models, and introduced a towel recycling program.
At the St. Julien Hotel & Spa, a luxury property in Boulder, the emphasis is on recycling, waste reduction, and biodegradable takeout containers. The hotel features 201 guest rooms – including six two-room suites – as well as an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center. Guest check-ins are conducted with paperless transactions, while the guest rooms feature LED light bulbs along with computers and televisions that have energy-saving settings.
The Devil’s Thumb Ranch, located outside of Winter Park, sits on 6,000 pristine acres in the Rocky Mountains and features 52 traditional guest rooms. The property is heated by energy-efficient geothermal systems, and all guest rooms are equipped with low-flush toilets and reduced flow showerheads to conserve water. Meanwhile, the spa offers all-natural beauty products to customers.
At Strawberry Park Hot Springs near the town of Steamboat Springs, customers can choose from accommodations that range from campsites and cabins to a renovated train caboose with a full-size futon, solar-powered lights and gas fireplace. The main draw here is the local hot springs, which provide a natural heated spa experience.
The Green Sky Yurt Retreat is a secluded Airbnb nestled in a natural setting about a half-hour from Durango. In case you’re wondering, a yurt is a portable, circular tent typically made of wood and covered in skins or felt. Eco-friendly features at Green Sky include organic natural soaps, a wine barrel shower, wood stove, and composting toilet. Complimentary canoes are also available for customers who want to paddle down the nearby water reservoir.
For those in search of a truly rustic experience, the Opus Hut is a completely self-sufficient mountain lodge that operates off the grid. It’s located east of the Ophir Pass and the San Juan Mountains, and offers eight rooms that can accommodate up to 16 guests. Features associated with this accommodation include a large dining area, reading nook, and small reclining area near the downstairs fire pit. Meals are made with natural and locally grown products. The Opus Hut runs on solar energy to power all of the heat and electricity. Customers can enjoy lake swimming during the warm months and skiing in the winter.