Unanswered questions | AspenTimes.com

Unanswered questions

Roger Marolt

I recently posed the following questions to executives from Aspen Skiing Co. regarding their oft-publicized efforts towards environmental stewardship. The questions are difficult so I presented them in as unthreatening a manner as I could. I e-mailed them in order to allow Skico time to think through their answers. I promised to print them exactly as submitted so that nothing could be taken out of context. I agreed not to retort or comment on their responses.My purpose was to ask hard questions on a complex and difficult topic. Any good question about global climate change and efforts to mitigate it cannot be simple.My proposal was met with anger. In an hour-long emotionally charged phone call from David Perry, Skico. senior vice president, I was told that my questions were “leading,” “unintelligent,” “unfair,” “biased” and “poorly researched.” I was accused of being “dishonest” and “unprofessional.” I told Perry that I believed the inquiry pertinent and viewed this as an opportunity for Skico to answer questions that many people are asking.My bias is simple: I believe that honesty and humility are necessary in addressing this serious matter. Even if we believe that there is nothing more we can do right now to conserve our resources, if we honestly, critically, and openly evaluate our inevitable impacts, eventually, and collectively, we will.Further, even the appearance of capitalizing on a phenomenon with such potentially devastating consequences is improper. There is a fine line between promoting awareness and veiled braggadocio for economic gain. The former is helpful, the latter leads to a false sense of progress. We need to define the limits of each.I believe asking these questions is fair as Skico has not shied away from the spotlight in this arena and are continually eager to inform us of any praise and awards they receive in the process. They have garnered our interest. They need to answer our inquiries.Contradictory to Skico’s defensive position, I see these questions pertaining to all of us in general as much is they do to them specifically. In order to evaluate their answers, we are forced to answer ourselves. From that, I hoped, meaningful discussion would ensue.Here are the questions they would not answer: Are you truly “green,” or just “greener” than most ski resort operators? Advertising that you are environmentally friendly appears to be primarily self-serving in that you hope it will attract more people to visit here. Is that aim contradictory to reducing greenhouse gases and slowing global warming? It appears that there is a bit of irony in the timing of your new environmentally-based ad campaign. When visitors see the giant Base Village construction project underway this winter at the bottom of Snowmass Mountain, won’t they be getting a mixed message? In developing high-end fractional ownership units, a private golf club, five-star hotels, and running a first-class ski resort, it’s no secret that you are marketing to the high income visitor that flies here on a jet, drives a big car around town, and pampers him or herself in ways that consume non-renewable resources at rate that is roughly double that of the average American. As the main attraction, do you have to shoulder any responsibility for the negative impacts our visitors cause while traveling and vacationing here? Rather than solely focusing on your own efforts towards saving the planet, will your new, or a future, advertising campaign risk offending our visitors in order to educate them in ways they can contribute positively as individuals in preserving our environment? I would guess that the sexy little Audis that Skico employees used to drive were easier on gas than the large Nissan SUVs we see you in now. The obvious reason you would switch is because Nissan gave you a better deal. If it’s all about economics, should we all buy conventional cars rather than spring the extra bucks for a hybrid or other alternative-fuel vehicle? In defending some of your recent development projects you have excused negative impacts on the environment by stating that you are a business and therefore must be concerned with the bottom line. It can be argued that every family, and indeed every individual, is a “business” in the sense that, with paying off mortgages, saving for college education and retirement, providing our families with necessities and comforts, most of us are concerned with the “bottom line.” Can’t we all justify almost any negative impacts we cause to the environment on this basis? You have agreed to purchase 22,000 megawatt-hours of wind-generated electricity for your on-mountain operations this year. Vail resorts recently announced that they plan to purchase 152,000 megawatt-hours this year. Is Vail greener than Aspen?Roger Marolt won’t beg anyone to answer his questions. He’ll answer yours at roger@maroltllp.com

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