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Skico’s greenwashing

Roger Marolt

OK, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you are sick and tired of hearing how environmentally friendly the Aspen Skiing Co. is?Wow! That’s a lot of hands! I don’t think we have enough shovels so we may have to share. But, let’s pass them out and take turns digging. We’ll get through this pile of b.s. in no time.Before we start, though, I want to say something nice about Skico. I like the way they manage our slopes. They’re putting out a good product and I enjoy it every opportunity I get. The truth is: I’m not an environmentalist, I’m a skier.OK, with that out of the way, let’s go back about 30 years. Man, I remember the environmentalists were all over Skico, and the entire ski industry for that matter. They were riled up about disrupted elk migration and the clear-cutting of forests. They fussed about population growth and polluted air. They raised hell, and a few cans of spray paint, when an automobile company named a car after our pristine town. They lobbied successfully to keep the 1976 Winter Olympics out of the state for fear of what the accompanying development would do to our mountains. What did Skico do in response to this opposition? They treaded lightly and leveled with us. They pointed out that most of us in town make our livings, directly or indirectly, from skiing. They reminded us of how much we enjoyed the sport and our lifestyle here.And, do you know what? We were okay with that. So, let’s fast forward and see what Skico has done since then. For starters they built a gondola on Aspen Mountain. They constructed the luxury Little Nell Hotel at the base and a giant new Sundeck restaurant/private club at the top. They widened Little Annie Road so they can drive large trucks up the back side. They threw up the massive Highlands base village. They constructed The Snowmass Club and Sanctuary timeshare projects. They built a new golf course.They installed a surface lift over the fragile tundra high atop Snowmass mountain. They installed extensive snowmaking operations on all four mountains. They cut runs on Burnt Mountain, opened Highland Bowl, and took snowcat powder tours out to Richmond Ridge. Next year they will install a new lift another thousand feet down into the Castle Creek Valley and open hundreds more acres in Deep Steeplechase. This spring they will begin constructing a million square feet of brand spanking new village in Snowmass.They marketed their product to the wealthy and lobbied hard to bring commercial jet service to town. They have 10 times as many snowcats prowling the slopes twice as often as they did in the ’70s, leaving the trails silky smooth every single night. And oh ya, I almost forgot; now they are environmentalists. I know this because they don’t miss a single opportunity to tell me so. Now, it may seem that I’m complaining about these things, but I’m not. I like most of it. We have the best skiing on the planet. It just irks me to hear all of their “we’re saving the planet” crap. A couple of weeks ago the papers were full of stories about Skico executives crying about oil wells in ANWR. Are they kidding? They’re partners with the oil companies! How do they gear their operation toward enticing the jet set crowd to this place and then renounce responsibility for all the oil consumed getting them here, not to mention the resources used to pamper them while they’re here? They … we, are dealers in conspicuous consumption!If you work in a glass office, I don’t think you should throw paperweights. Instead of smashing the windows of other companies, they should look out their own to watch their bulldozers tearing up our back yard. Yes, it is fantastic that they print their multicolor, high-gloss sales brochures on recycled paper. Yahoo! The Exxon Valdez has a solar-powered phone on it, too! Let’s be honest, though. They are not doing something good for the environment. They are only mitigating a really small part of the bad stuff that they’re doing to it.I’m tired of hearing about all of the environmental awards Skico is winning for what amounts to not being as bad as they could be. All of those trophies are landfill fodder, as far as I’m concerned. They tell us over and over again about the wind-generated electricity they use. What they don’t tell us is that this wind-spawned charge is expensive to produce. So what? Well, guess how they pay for it. They raise lift ticket prices! Then, they have to offer more resource-intensive amenities to attract people who are willing to pay the higher prices. Do you see? Ultimately for Skico, electricity from wind may lead to using more oil than it saves. The point of this, of course, is that being truly environmentally friendly is not as simple as they think. It is a lot more than talk and superficial actions. It requires analysis and making difficult decisions. Most of all, it requires humility. There’s a lot we don’t understand. The one thing more dangerous than doing nothing about saving our environment is believing that you are doing something when you are not. This lays the foundation to the biggest obstacle in the way of true progress: complacency. Seeing that Skico’s long-range future is tied directly to the curbing of global warming, it is incredibly ironic that they have taken the short-range step of constructing the massively resource intensive Base Village in Snowmass. If you ask them why, they’ll tell you that they have to because all of their competitors are doing the same thing. This doesn’t demonstrate courage and conviction to save our planet. This is business. And, that’s OK. I just wish they would shut up about how green they are.Annoying noise coming from the boardroom is pollution, too.Roger Marolt doesn’t believe that naming a ski run after a John Denver song is enough to call yourself an environmentalist. Throw some garbage in his mailbox at roger@maroltllp.com


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