Skico’s Schendler has ear of Congress

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

The Aspen Skiing Co. gets a chance Tuesday to spread its message in the U.S. Congress about the potential effects of global warming on the ski industry.Auden Schendler, the Skico’s executive director of community and environmental affairs, is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The subcommittee is holding a hearing to explore, in part, how climate change could affect management of public lands.Schendler said his opportunity to testify before Congress fits well with the Skico’s strategy of using Aspen’s high profile to draw attention to global warming.”Using Aspen as a lever, that’s what we want to do,” he said.Schendler has five minutes to testify. He is uncertain how many subcommittee members will be present during his presentation. However, he has a separate appointment with subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., to press his points.”The mountain resort economy in the West is as endangered as the polar bear but a heck of a lot more valuable,” Schendler’s presentation begins, according to a copy he provided.Schendler will draw heavily in his testimony on studies that show Aspen will warm by 6 to 14 degrees by 2100, depending on whether the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions.Warmer temperatures threaten to eat away at the beginning and end of the ski season, Schendler said. If Mother Nature provides less snow early in the season, the ski industry will depend even more on snowmaking.Even that option is questionable: Schendler’s prepared information noted that December was so warm that the Skico had trouble making snow.Schendler said an analysis by Colorado College of potential effects on the state’s snowpack from 1976 to 2085 showed Aspen could see a 43 percent loss in the amount of snow on April 1.This month could be a sign of things to come: March is usually one of the snowiest months, but this year conditions are warm and dry. Instead of building the snowpack, the weather is gobbling it. As of Monday, the snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin was only 81 percent of average.Schendler cautioned against saying this March could be normal. Scientists say global warming will bring unpredictable weather, he said, equating future March weather to a roll of the dice.”You could have some great powder Marches. You could have those really warm March meltdowns,” he said in an interview.Business in March is vitally important to many ski area operators because it takes that long to reach the break-even point. March determines the size of profits.”If you shorten our season on either end – take away March, for example – we go out of business,” Schendler’s prepared testimony said.In the best-case scenario, global warming will increase the cost of doing business for the ski industry and drop profit margins, he continued.”Aspen Skiing Company, along with the rest of the ski industry, is a reluctant warrior on the climate issue,” Schendler wrote. “Our entire business model is threatened by the problem.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is


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