On Dec. 27, 2016, The Aspen Times published an op-ed penned by SkiCo CEO Mike Kaplan entitled “We’re still here.” The entire piece is succinct and superb, and if I had to choose a thesis line, it would be this: “I believe this election was more about dissatisfaction with government than it was about ideology.” So began (or continued) SkiCo’s earnest push to use both capital and progressive ideology to directly impact government and policy, increasingly driving awareness and action through the use of art.
In 2018, SkiCo partnered with Denver-based creative agency Karsh Hagan for its “The Aspen Way” campaign, centering on the four core values of love, unity, community and respect. The stated goal was, “To stand out from the sea of expected ski advertising conventions and set Aspen-Snowmass apart by finding unexpected, authentic ways to connect with past and future guests.” The words were concepted and executed as art installations atop the four mountains, and I for one enjoyed the reminder of “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” and Rick James’ Unity ring every time I skinned Tiehack.
Fast-forward to the present. SkiCo has installed Roaring Fork Valley artist Chris Erickson’s “melted gondola car” atop Aspen Mountain, part of a climate action campaign in conjunction with Protect Our Winters (POW). The art piece represents a warming climate, and is thoroughly explained in the pages of the Dec. 15 edition of this paper. One day prior, Tom Neville wrote an article in the New York Times entitled “Fires, Landslides, Lack of Snow: The Ski Industry Girds for Battle.” In a LinkedIn post, SkiCo Senior Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schendler reminded readers, “The Times focuses its tractor beam on climate and skiing. Note: contrary to the concluding lines, this issue is not about the carbon resorts create or use. It’s about how they do or don’t wield power to drive policy, politics and movements. I will only say this 1,000 more times. …”
Large-scale extreme weather events are rampant, from the recent blizzard warning and flash flooding in Hawaii to deadly tornadoes across the plains and Midwest (notably Kentucky, technically the Southeast) to the fact that Eagle Hill cannot be safely skied on Dec. 17 or that the soft opening of the Alpine Room, situated at 10,486 feet, is still delayed because of lack of snow. The issue is not whether there is an “average” amount of precipitation around the world, but rather, the fact that these quantities are increasingly being satisfied via extreme weather events instead of consistent patterns (nor is there often an acceptable average, but I digress). Whether one chooses to believe in “climate change” or not similarly misses the point. Life is not static, and as former U.K. Prime Minister Harold Wilson quipped, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
This does not, however, mean that entrenched institutions and power structures with interests to protect (economic, social and otherwise) will not attempt to hit the snooze button for as long as possible. Spoiler alert: We are all, in our own ways, guilty of hitting the proverbial …….