You don’t have to be a geek to digest Aspen Skiing Co.’s new sustainability report |

You don’t have to be a geek to digest Aspen Skiing Co.’s new sustainability report

Ski school participants get hauled by snowmobile from Panda Peak on Buttermilk on Thursday afternoon. Aspen Skiing Co.'s Sustainability Report details the sources of its carbon emissions. Burning gas and diesel fuel is a big contributor.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times


Skico has tracked its emissions since its 2000 fiscal year. Here are highlights in tons of CO2.

2000 29,820

2010 30,881

2016 24,254

2017 23,035

2020 22,365*

*That is the goal, a 25% reduction from 2000 baseline.

Source: Aspen Skiing Co. 2018 Sustainability Report

The late Stan Lee’s work during his long tenure at Marvel Comics helped inspire Aspen Skiing Co.’s latest sustainability report.

Skico has released 11 prior reports that bare all when it comes to the company’s production of carbon. They have used snazzy graphics and interesting case studies to help tell the story, but Auden Schendler, Skico’s senior vice president of sustainability, didn’t feel those efforts were cutting it.

“I read sustainability reports from other businesses. They’re unreadable,” Schendler said. “I’m a geek for this stuff and I can’t get through them.”

So the Skico team decided to go a different route. A 15-page condensed report has flashy, comic book-style graphics, with bright colors and illustrations of people such as former Skico president and CEO Pat O’Donnell and current company leader Mike Kaplan.

The report provides a Cliff’s Notes version of Aspen’s renaissance as a skiing mecca. “By the ’70s and ’80s, ski hedonism was in full swing,” says a page with a VW bus with “Aspen or bust” printed on the side. “Neon one-pieces, dancing in tight jeans at the Tippler Bar, and skiing with your ankles locked together were all the rage.”

But Skico was adrift without a mission, the report said. It had gotten away from Walter Paepcke’s vision of Aspen as a place where people could discuss new ideas and renew their mind, body and spirit.

O’Donnell’s team changed that by establishing guiding principles in 1996 and the direction was embraced by the Crown family, who became 100 percent owners in the 1990s.

Those principles were the foundation for Skico’s action to reduce its own carbon emissions and work for larger policy changes in the region and country. The latest effort is the Give a Flake movement, which promotes taking action to combat climate change. The sustainability report ends by urging readers to get involved in Give a Flake.

For climate geeks like Schendler, the report includes a bit of information on the company’s carbon emissions and provides links for more data.

The company provides annual carbon emissions since 1999-2000, when it produced 29,820 tons (see fact box).

Schendler said the company is on track to reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent from the 2000 level by 2020 — but he’s humble about the achievement.

“We’re getting there not because of our incredible success at reducing emissions,” he said. “The bulk (of Skico’s reduction) is from Holy Cross Energy progressively decarbonizing.”

Holy Cross is a major provider of electricity to the Roaring Fork Valley and Skico. The company has a goal of having 70 percent of its portfolio as renewable energy by 2030.

As Holy Cross works toward that goal, Skico and every other customer reduces its emissions without even trying.

“It would be totally fair to say, ‘You guys don’t have anything to do with that,’” Schendler said.

But he counters that Skico actually has played a role. It has helped “progressive” candidates run for seats on the energy cooperative’s board of directors and has been mostly successful.

Schendler said he hopes Skico employees and other interested people will review the 2018 Sustainability Report to learn a little about Aspen’s history and how Skico fits in.

The report can be downloaded at under the “We are Different” tab.

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