Eco-Friendly Resorts: Keystone Lodge

By Nicole Dorsey Straff / August 10, 2011

I drove right past the dun-colored Lodge twice because I was subliminally searching for something else. When I finally slowed down along the hairpin turns on yet another mountain pass, I stopped and stared at the wooden sign introducing Keystone Lodge. I had obviously driven past one of this country’s most eco-friendly resorts because it looks more like a no-frills motel or cement bunker on the outside, a place where you’d hide from insurgents or an irate ex-husband. I just didn’t expect a luxury resort to be so, well, low-key.

“The fact that it looks like an army bunker is one of the reasons it holds heat and utilizes energy so well,” laughs David November, environmental director of the Keystone Lodge. A valuable member of the RockResorts chain, Keystone is one of the first facilities to use wind energy, the first to initiate an on-property composting program, and one of the few to forge a partnership with an environmental nonprofit organization. The resort partners with on-site Keystone Science School to provide guest education on environmental issues and offers star-gazing programs, fireside nature chats with rangers, and hands-on learning environmental tours for children. To allow guests to give back while visiting the Company’s iconic properties, RockResorts has also partnered with the National Forest Foundation to create the Ski Conservation Fund. Since the inception of this voluntary donation program (which allows guests to contribute $1 per season pass purchase, lodging stay, or ticket transaction), more than $825,000 has been raised to restore and revamp national forestland located within the community.

Whether you visit to ski or snowboard in high ski season, which runs from December through April, or choose to hike, bike, and fish in the sultry summer months, guests always take home with them a more profound understanding and respect of the flora and fauna of the Colorado Rockies. “At Keystone, we take environmental upgrades very seriously in order to optimize energy and protect the earth,” says November, head of the Lodge’s three-member environmental team. Keystone has even improved energy savings on all lighting fixtures, and the automated snow-making system now operates 33 percent more efficiently. The resort also offers eco-chic wedding and green meeting initiatives all year long. In addition, the Keystone Lodge has upgraded the water systems on all 153 rooms (which start at $149 in the summer and $250 in winter), and resulting water savings are estimated at 117 gallons of water per room day, or 4.5 million gallons per year. Keystone has even removed and recycled more than 2 million pounds of steel and 300 tons of concrete from the old ski gondola and re-purposed it for the brand-new River Run Gondola on property.

“Recycling has literally become part of our culture here at Keystone,” says November, “and we have achieved a diversion rate of over twenty percent per year throughout the resort. In addition to recycling in all of the food and beverage outlets, Keystone began an on-mountain program which places containers at the bottom and top of lifts and around various base areas in order to facilitate more convenient recycling—even while skiing.” According to the National Recycling Coalition Calculator, Keystone’s recycling 1,300 tons of waste last year is equivalent to saving:

  • 9,700 trees
  • 120 households’ worth of energy
  • Emission of 1,400 tons of carbon dioxide and 60 tons of methane (greenhouse gasses)

Finally, Keystone provides eight bus routes throughout the resort in addition to the on-call shuttle service. This transportation system serves over 450,000 riders per ski season and allows guests to come to Keystone without cars, or to leave their cars in the parking lot while staying at the Lodge.

Evolution of a Green Spa
This past winter, the Keystone Lodge & Spa unveiled its newly enhanced and environmentally friendly RockResort Spa which features 100 percent wind power, organic products, indigenous ingredients, bountiful natural light, and a number of elements that connect the spa to its natural mountain surroundings. “The Spa is nestled in the spectacular setting of the Snake River Valley and because our guests visit this world-class resort for the beauty and majesty of the Colorado Rockies, we have a special obligation to protect—and connect—to this unique environment,” says spa director Michael Simmons. “In keeping with Keystone’s ongoing commitment to environmental initiatives, we expanded and created an eco-friendly spa that instills harmony inside and out. This makes Keystone’s spa the largest, most elegant and most environmentally friendly in all of Summit County,” he says.

The 10,000-square-foot facility now features 10 treatment rooms plus an outdoor heated pool. New spa features include an infinity-edge chromo-therapy tub, a Vichy shower room, a couple’s suite, a manicure/pedicure station and a beautifully designed relaxation room. One of the most interesting elements of the design was inspired directly from Mother Nature—abundant sunlight glaring through large windows year-round. The spa shines with flaming natural rays over 300 days a year, which helps guest connect to the Rocky Mountain views and saves on heating and energy coasts throughout the year.

One-hundred percent of the electricity from the new spa is offset with wind power energy credits, making the Keystone Lodge & Spa one of the country’s first spa facilities to commit wholly to renewable energy sources. Recycled building products are integrated in the expansion, and even the cups, trash bags, and cleaning products in the spa are compostable and eco-friendly. The revamped fitness center has sustainable flooring made from recycled tires, and spa therapists wear uniforms made of hemp and earth-savvy Tencel. Of course, even the most sustainable spa stands out only when its services reflect its commitment to the environment, and this one surely does. Simmons has worked long and hard to create a forward-thinking, state-of-the-art menu which specializes in spa rituals.

The therapeutic signature treatment, called the Dreaming Ritual ($350 for 150 minutes), is devoted to shedding physical impurities and awakening the creative spirit. Embracing ancient and traditional healing techniques from Australia, this blissful package incorporates Li’Tya all-natural organic products and centuries-old therapies distilled from Australian Aboriginals. Each Li’Tya product is based on their knowledge of native plants and healing modalities and is rooted in a deep, abiding respect for nature. First, an invigorating, full-body exfoliation with desert salts revitalizes energy meridians and brings tone and clarity to the skin with firm, rhythmic strokes. After aromatic salts are gently buffed across the body, a mountain-rain rinse massages away remaining stresses. Other ritual highlights include a Miji Jina foot treatment, a body wrap using indigenous silky muds, a Paudi head massage, a super-moisturizing facial, and the Miji Polama hand treatment. A full-service fitness center rounds out the eco-chic area—and you are most decidedly not in a nondescript, cement army bunker any longer. This one-of-a-kind spa is truly transformational…so I’m glad I didn’t miss that last hairpin turn off the mountain after all.

Nicole Dorsey-Straff, M.S., a Los Angeles-based exercise physiologist and wellness expert, is Organic Spa Magazine’s contributing editor of play and adventure.


Nicole Dorsey Straff

Nicole Dorsey Straff

Nicole Dorsey, M.S. is a travel and wellness expert who earned a Master’s Degree in the health sciences while writing and editing for industry giants, such as The New York Times, Fitness Magazine and Her true passion is adventure travel and her spa reporting has taken her all over the world.
Nicole Dorsey Straff

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