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Aspen Goes with the Flow

Fall Line

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Money has always flowed like water in America’s glitziest ski town. The Aspen Skiing Company is reversing that trend, harnessing snowmelt that flows down Snowmass Mountain to generate electricity-and a revenue stream. The setup is deceivingly simple: Summer snowmelt is channeled downhill through snowmaking pipes. Thanks to gravity, the water hits 320 mph on the way. The speeding-and by now highly pressurized-H2O shoots through a nozzle the size of a dime onto a water wheel, which spins a turbine that generates electricity. Aspen Environmental Director Auden Schendler expects the “micro-hydro” system to generate enough electricity to power 40 homes for a year. “This is ideal for resorts that have steep pitches and huge runoffs,” Schendler says-which just about covers everyone.