Roger Marolt: We’re not eating the snow cone in one bite

Roger Marolt
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The Aspen Global Change Institute, in its 2014 report, predicted that there will be no skiing in Aspen by the year 2100 under current global emissions conditions. Let’s assume it is correct. Do you want to look at the snow cone half-full?

The optimists won’t worry too much. Their own eulogies will be cried over long before Little Nell’s. We’ve got more than 80 years of skiing left and that’s plenty for me, even if I’m following Klaus Obermeyer’s tracks into the mogul field of my 90s. It’s even enough time for my own kids to fit a full skiing life in and, realistically, for my grand kids and, probably, for my great-grand children, too. Heck, even my great-great grand kids might be able to squeeze a few runs in before the that final runoff. Just the thought is exhausting. Golf will be a good alternative, although I’ll be the one in a hole by then.

Unfortunately, optimism does not prevent the snow cone from dripping. It is not like some fourth-generation iteration of us is going to wake up one day 82 years from now to a Pitkin County alert informing them that skiing is suddenly over forever. There will be many slurps from the sweet, slushy delight between now and then.

Oversimplification gets a bad rap. While it may not be of much use to airplane designers and chess players, it allows the rest of us to have at least some vague idea of what the heck is going on. Without it, most of us would check out of most intellectual curiosities. I, for one, remain a big fan of gross generalizations in things to do with how the world works. Look at it this way: How else are you going to enjoy an Aspen Ideas Festival presentation? So, what do you say we go for it?

OK, so, if we progress on a Fanny Hill angled slope from where we are today with skiing heading downhill to the year 2100, what we know for sure is that, on average, the skiing next year will be worse than it is this year. In a mathematical expression, when you divide 82 years by a 100 percent decline in ski conditions, every year from here on out will be about 1.2 percent worse than the year before. That doesn’t sound too bad, but think about skiing 10 years from now. According to our version of oversimplification, skiing will be more than 12 percent worse than it is today, or let’s say last year since this year is proving to be quite an anomaly, so far.

And, yeah, there are going to be anomalies along the way. For sure, Aspen has not seen its last year of mega snow. Undoubtedly, we will see seasons where the snow is so deep that we get sick of shoveling our walks twice a day. But, we also will see even more frequently seasons like this one where it is so dry that we might as well post our snow shovels in the garden to prop up the sweet peas sprouting in March.

It’s a little like us growing older. We don’t notice much change day to day even though we know it is all coming to a certain end. If we are brave enough to look up a life expectancy table on the internet, we can get an estimate of when our bodies will turn from a vibrant wonder of science into a lump of functionless organic matter. It’s enough to make you sympathetic to climate change deniers. Let the first among us who hasn’t patted themselves on the back for running up Smuggler faster than other middle-aged joggers, who doesn’t dab a little anti-age cream on their face before bedtime, or simply comb their hair to disguise its thinness be the first to throw indisputable facts and evidence at a delusion.

While we are doing what we can here to save our climate for good skiing, that doesn’t appear to be a big priority for the other 6 billion people on the planet. Some are into it for other, possibly better reasons, but progress still seems slow. Many don’t care at all. I suppose we could spend our time designing tougher edges and ski base material, cultivating thicker vegetation for padding the slopes, and engineering rock-picking machines, but that seems as pointless as trying to hold oxygen in our lungs.

In the end, it’s about enjoying the fresh air without counting our finite number of breaths. In the words of the ageless Alfred E. Neuman; “What, me worry?”

Roger Marolt plans to get up there this weekend and ski his edges off! Email at