Roger Marolt: Roger This
December 21, 2012
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Because in Aspen, we don’t have a Plan B. If anyone in town has sincere misgivings about the end of the world or worse, the end of skiing, it isn’t apparent. I thought we were supposed to be a leader in dealing with climate change.
I don’t think Aspen Skiing Co. is. I don’t think the city of Aspen is. I don’t even think the guy who wants to preserve our water rights by running our water through a hydroelectric plant on Castle Creek is.
Skico first put the fear in us about the death of snow, right before it put in a land-use application to build a million square feet of tourist accommodations in Snowmass Village. The city of Aspen turned the heat up with its Canary Initiative a few years back and now laments the fact that a developer recently pulled the plug on plans to construct a seven-story luxury hotel at the base of Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain. The supporter of the hydroelectric plant believes man can live on alternative energy sources alone.
Obviously, constructing colossal structures on a remote, mountainous part of the planet – where everything has to be trucked in from the coasts – is not reducing Aspen’s Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint, even if all the new light bulbs are energy efficient. But that’s not what I’m getting at.
Dealing with the prospects of global warming is not only about preventing, reducing or slowing down the onset of a global atmospheric meltdown that might hit full-force within a few hundred years. It’s also about adjusting to it now. This isn’t just about saving our great-great-grandchildren’s butts.
You would think that a community whose bread is buttered with the tip of a ski would be thinking about preserving the reason that we need tourist accommodations and electric plants in the first place: I’m talking about snow! Anomaly or not, the early-season skiing around here hasn’t been worth a crap in eight out of the past 10 seasons. The past two have been abysmal. It is indicative of a problem when locals are writing letters to the editor about how great the golfing is in December.
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Aspen might be the royalty of ski resorts, but the emperor has no snowmaking capabilities. While the rest of the skiing world is investing heavily in cutting-edge snowmaking technology, Aspen is sticking its head in the rocks. It might be worth mentioning that the newer technologies result in softer snow and use far less energy.
Considering that Skico has been at the forefront of global-warming warning, it was interesting that one of its executives was quoted recently as saying, “We have relied on bountiful natural snowfall and will continue to do so.” Excuse me for being confused. Is global warming a threat to skiing or not?
One would assume that perhaps expanding snowmaking on our slopes is too difficult, but that would be a bad assumption. The same Skico executive also said about expanding snowmaking in Aspen, “It’s not a huge project.”
What is the delay, then? Perhaps it’s that Auden Schendler, the resident Skico duke of doom in charge of fear sales, hasn’t even been able to sell his company on the threat. Nor, apparently, has the city been made to see the immediate danger to our livelihood unless, of course, you count the ban on plastic grocery bags as a significant step in improving the quality of our skiing right now.
If Skico and the city (i.e., all of us) are serious about the danger that global warming poses to the future of snow sports, now would be a good time to react. Invest in expansive snowmaking infrastructure, and use the city’s surplus water rights to feed that system. Most large resorts are far ahead of us in this. Their actions are speaking louder than our words. Hyperbole is not an ingredient of snow.
The cost of participating in skiing and snowboarding is too high for would-be visitors to take a chance booking early in a resort that relies almost entirely on nature to provide adequate coverage of its slopes. It’s too easy to go somewhere else that guarantees more of its slopes are in great shape – without lying.
As posh as Aspen is, it is not the nice hotels, great restaurants and fine shops that bring people here. While our visitors certainly enjoy all of these things while they are here, it is still the snow they come for.
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