Aspen ski company leads the way in addressing climate change

By Emily Stamper
Auden Schendler is the vice president of sustainability at the Aspen Skiing Company. He’s passionate about climate change.

And he acknowleges significant waste in his industry, which caters to skiers who use carbon to fly across the world for skiing and still relies partly on coal-generated electricity to power ski lifts.

Skiers come to Aspen and famously spray $150 bottles of champagne on each other at Cloud Nine restaurant on  the top of the mountain, Schendler said. Those $150 dollars could’ve gone so far for so many people across the world, he said. “There’s a connection to me between waste and human lives.” This year Aspen is taxing the champagne and giving the money to charity.

Aspen has been a leader in trying to make environment-friendly changes. Ski company officials use their name, power and brand to drive big change. They created “The Sundeck”, one of the first LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certified buildings in the world. After that the company retrofitted all their light bulbs, installed 170 kilowatts of solar panels, built a 115 kilowatt hydroelectric plant and invested 5.5 million dollars in a clean energy power plant. They hope to be at 70% renewable energy by 2030.

“We want a world that includes beauty and justice, not just survival,” Schendler said. This mindset is what drives him and the company to help the environment.

Last year, Aspen had to spend an enormous amount of money just to keep the town from burning down. This past summer it rained 2 inches and people’s basements flooded. If so much money is spent on survival where is the room for art, creativity and what it means to be human?

Schendler sees what is in store for the future. Soil moisture in Colorado is supposed to be “dust bowl level dry” in 2080. Snowfall is supposed to be at 50% by 2100. The Arctic was 27 degrees warmer in January than it should’ve been. “You are already seeing crazy things happen in the world with 1 degree celsius warming,” Schendler said, referring to the fires, droughts and floods. He can’t imagine what the future will look like.

Schendler has hope for the future and thinks that we, as humans, were given the amazing opportunity to help the earth – and it starts with big corporations leading the way. “What generation of humans had the opportunity to save civilization?”

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