Colorado ski resorts battle climate change

Daniel Frank photo

There’s no business like snow business, where ski industry profits and jobs could evaporate due to climate change.

Donald Trump might think that global warming is a hoax, but some Colorado ski resort owners are certain that it’s a very real threat to their industry and the future of our civilization. That was made quite clear at a recent Summit County summit meeting of some of Colorado’s top resort executives and mountain town residents at Keystone.

Aspen Ski Company vice-president Auden Schendler was the keynote speaker at the annual winter season kickoff breakfast. He delivered a blunt, clear message, according to “I’m asking you to save civilization,” he was quoted. “You’re being asked to do a major thing and your response should be, ‘Oooh, I don’t know if I’m your person, I can barely wake up in the morning.’ But the truth is history is replete with people of no power at all who have done incredible things.”

Schendler is in charge of maintaining sustainability on the Aspen ski area’s slopes, and is head of the activist group Protect Our Winters. His speech was a mixture of urgency and cautious optimism. “There is a risk in not taking action vocally on the climate. There is opportunity in moving on it. We can solve this problem,” Schendler urged.

Schendler argues that the resorts need to work together to mitigate the effects of climate change, and it’s going to take a lot more than just switching to energy-efficient light bulbs.

His words resonated with the man in charge of Copper Mountain. “He’s absolutely right, these are business decisions,” said Gary Rodgers, president and CEO of Copper Mountain Resort. “These aren’t really necessarily things that are going to change the world, but they’re certainly the right decisions for our business.”

Rodgers’ company has had a couple of sustainability initiatives going for some time, including its Green Team and the Copper Environmental fund.

Schendler applauded Vail Resorts for committing to a net-zero environmental footprint by 2030. Vail’s plan reportedly includes carbon offsets, renewable energy usage, plus improved recycling and composting programs.

Many scientists believe Earth is heading for a catastrophic temperature increase, making it imperative for the ski industry to openly support national and international policies to prevent that, in Schendler’s opinion.

Breckenridge Ski Resort COO John Buhler agrees, according to “It is important, our commitment to better results within our environment,” said Buhler. “This community is so incredible, almost every single town and the county are working toward these goals. We’re very proud to join everyone on this journey.”

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is using state-of-the-art snow-making and grooming devices, plus more solar panels, to reduce its emissions levels, according to COO Alan Henceroth. He also told the gathering that to battle climate change, ski areas must be willing to take some heat from patrons and critics. “Climate change is real, and we really need to act to do something about it,” he said, and the audience burst into applause. “We really have to try to find meaningful measures, because this is going to have to change. So don’t be afraid to do the right thing.”

Fortunately, the morally right thing to do is also the economically wise choice. If left unchecked, climate change will result in melting profits, and thousands of jobs drying up in Colorado.

About the author

Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal, a Detroit native, has been a journalist since 1977. He has worked as a reporter, commentator, and news director at radio stations in Detroit, Denver, and Montrose.

Dave has been writing and editing for the Monitor since its first print issue in 2003. He is editor and senior writer for the digital magazine. On the side, Dave has also done freelance writing, media relations, and a variety of volunteer work.