Marolt: Skico finally coming clean on being dirty |

Marolt: Skico finally coming clean on being dirty

It is refreshing — like a warm winter breeze blowing over a sweating polar ice cap — to hear Aspen Skiing Co. admit that it is, in fact, contributing more than its fair share to environmental chaos after all. It happened last week when Scott Condon, from this, Aspen’s oldest newspaper, coaxed the confession from Skico’s Auden Schendler in a story about the X Games’ errant meteor-like impact on planet Earth.

Now, I don’t want to split hairs from a shedding polar bear, because the first step in solving a problem is admitting that you are it, right? Let’s not risk moving between Skico and the mirror at this juncture. Good for them!

I have just one teensy quibble. Skico, contrary to its claim du jour, has not always humbly copped to the charges of assaulting the atmosphere.

A funny thing happened in our mountains shortly after global warming became popular and profitable — not necessarily in that order. Skico led the charge against eco-irresponsibility by going on the attack. Was it really possible that the world was heading for the celestial waste basket wadded up in a Kleenex tissue?

Skico thought so. While most people didn’t believe facial tissue was the biggest issue in global warming, apparently that low fruit was high on Skico’s list. In a nationally publicized furor, Skico blew a hole through Kleenex and Kimberly-Clark, its manufacturer. It summarily banned the product from its mountains, talked briefly about changing the name of the famous catwalk on Ajax from “Kleenex Corner” to “Don’t Eat Meat” and then wiped its noses clean with generic-brand tissue. Good prevailed over evil, and snotcicles — for the first time in history — were briefly fashionable.

There really was no good reason, aside from comfort, to use silky-soft Kleenex products manufactured in eco-unfriendly acid-wash processes when scratchy, cheap alternatives were available. Oh, if only Skico knew then what was obvious. Looking back, it can probably see wisdom in the age-old proverb — “He who lives without Kleenex shouldn’t flick boogers.”

Although Skico didn’t see it, the businesses of modern skiing and blowing noses are pretty much the same. In both industries, manufacturing soft, silky, white sheets for their customers’ consumption is the goal. Neither, as it turns out, is necessary, and in fact, mankind got along just fine without both for the better part of 6 million years or so.

Skico claimed that Kimberly-Clark should have been making their tissues using a process that was more environmentally friendly. Kimberly Clarke claimed that this would result in an inferior product and a loss of market share. Skico didn’t care about that. Kleenex was bad, end of story!

Meanwhile, Skico flew the green banner high, even higher than the Highland Bowl “Epic” flag on a 2-foot powder day. Do you remember what it said? It said, “Behold, we are our industry leader, our own heroes, humbly, if we do say so ourselves, doing what we can to rescue the planet. Please plan your next vacation with us!”

Yes, Skico was lighting its incandescent bulbs in the parking garage with wind and canola oil, but was it really doing all it could do to save the planet? Let me succinctly answer that — “no.”

The error Skico made was to put its nose in someone else’s business, strictly speaking, when its own nostrils were dripping and it remained oblivious. Skico absolutely can be more environmentally friendly, if only it takes the same advice it dished out copiously, proudly and loudly to Kimberly-Clark. Skico does not have to meticulously groom thousands of acres of ski terrain every single night of the winter. The downside? This is where it gets ironic — producing a rougher product that quality conscious consumers won’t buy!

OK, enough rubbing its nose in it. I am proud of Skico for coming clean on this, so to speak. It takes guts to admit you were wrong, and Skico’s newfound humility is a lot easier to take. The Audi and Sentient Jet sponsorships, the massive piles of man-made snow wasting away at the base of Buttermilk most of the winter, the nightly light show of snowcats grooming the slopes, the appeal to the Fortune 500, Base Village, the X Games extravaganza — it’s all tolerable now that Skico isn’t green, and Skico knows it. Finally, Aspen can advertise itself to the world for what it really is — the greatest ski resort on the planet!

Roger Marolt is taking in this breath of fresh air, even if it isn’t as clean as once advertised. Contact him at