Skico finally comes clean | AspenTimes.com

Skico finally comes clean

Roger Marolt
Aspen, CO Colorado

I am proud of Auden Schendler. Why? Because he told the truth. That’s nice, you say. We should all tell the truth. But, is it so extraordinary an accomplishment that the opening to a weekly column should be devoted to recognizing someone being honest?

Well, to answer that question, you have to consider what this person does for a living and where he does it. Schendler is the director of environmental affairs at Aspen Skiing Co., and, let’s just say that, when it comes to straight-shooters, I don’t believe their headquarters is exactly the O.K. Corral at high noon.

Also, you must realize that Schendler didn’t just tell the truth, he told the truth to the national readership of Business Week magazine. That’s big stuff! They weren’t going to be snowed, so to speak, so he laid it all out like corduroy on Aztec.

Man, I wish I had that kind of journalistic clout. When I asked the tough questions last fall, Sch-endler handled me about as effectively as the Bush administration is handling Iran. He deferred the talking to his boss, senior executive David Perry who answered me by stating that he wouldn’t answer me. So, silly me, I printed the questions in my column anyway and told my readers that the Skico refused to answer them. It was then that Perry nuclear-reacted (in an inefficient way) and accused me of being uniformed, which still baffles me since that was one of the reasons I asked the questions in the first place.

Oh well, maybe the Skico learned something from that experience in the local press and decided that it would be smarter to level with Business Week rather than get leveled in Business Week at about the same time their new advertising campaign (which ostensibly encourages people to save the planet by taking their two-week vacation in Aspen) hits the newsstands. It’s PR 101: A self-deprecating plea for pity is always the best course of action when you are about to get publicly lambasted.

One can only wonder how well this strategy of capitulation will work. After all, in the process, Schendler made his cohorts look like they were full of beans in the worldwide green giants’ wrestling match. I, for one, am betting it was planned out ahead of time and that they will turn Schendler’s candid remarks into a publicity stunt.

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I’ll help. Heck, I’ll nominate him for the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. Another of his former bosses, Pat O’Donnell, was voted in last year largely for his alleged ecological leadership in the industry. Next year, maybe Schendler can be inducted for exposing him as a fraud. Their pictures could appear opposite one another in an icy perpetual stare-down, a decent reminder to all visitors to do what we can to help cool the planet.

Even though Schendler exposed much of the Skico’s eco-charade, he, nonetheless, maintains enough defiance to fire a shot at his critics by saying that it is not helpful when they suggest that the company just turn off the lifts. OK, hold it right there, Mr. Green Jeans. Let’s not start backpedaling in the honesty department that quickly. You don’t expect us to believe that anyone has actually suggested that, do you? Nobody around here is that dumb or naive.

I love skiing and accept the guilt that comes with partaking in something that is inherently harmful to the environment. We can’t stop living, after all. I also believe the Skico manages this resort well. The main thing this critic suggested was that the Skico clam up with its hollow environmental harping, because it drives people with common sense nuts, and, if we are going to make headway in solving the global warming issue, we don’t need the sensible people to be nuts.

After reading the Business Week article, “Little Green Lies,” I feel pretty good about statements I have made about the Skico’s environmentalism over the past few years. In case they have forgotten, here are the major ones:

– Cutting down trees on mountainsides to make room for recreational activities is a pretty shaky environmental platform to build on.

– We have to take responsibility for the collateral effects on the environment of marketing this place to the Gulfstream jet crowd and making our livings out of their cash.

– Just because a gigantic, new base village is 100 percent LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified doesn’t mean that making it bigger is better for the environment.

– Purchasing renewable energy credits is a feel-good farce (I think those were my words …) that does not reduce the amount of energy use or carbon footprint, and probably encourages everyone to use energy less efficiently, because it promotes complacency in place of activism.

– Humility instead of grandstanding might be a more constructive in trying to solve a mind-numbingly complex problem such as global warming.

– The Skico’s boycott of Kleenex last year ” because the tissue is manufactured with an environmentally damaging process ” was a token effort, at best, and a hypocritical, nonconstructive finger-pointing circus, at least. (Sorry. This, of course, isn’t a major point. I just had to throw it in.)

Now, I suppose it may sound like I’m gloating, but I’m not. You can only gloat when you prove everybody wrong. The truth is, I didn’t say anything that you, I, or they don’t know.

The Skico said that I was wrong about this. They vigorously defended themselves. And, recalling this makes me hopeful. If you remember, I’ve also written about how the Skico stole the Base Village election from the people who make their lives in Snowmass Village. The Skico stands by their political actions in much the same way they previously stood up for their environmentalism. Maybe someday, they will come clean on this issue, too.

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