Auden Schendler thinks many of Aspen Skiing Company’s environmental achievements—the largest solar array in the industry, a micro-hydro power plant on Fanny Hill—are meaningless. “To deal with climate change, we need to make all these decisions with big, 50-year implications in a 10-year window,” he argues. “If that’s the case, then whether you drove a Prius today is meaningless.”
Strong words from the guy ASC chose to head up its environmental affairs: Schendler is the face and (often very loud) voice of its efforts to go green.
Aware of the doom-and-gloom nature of the climate crisis but evangelical about the potential to solve it, Schendler is an unapologetic realist. “We can’t say, ‘Skiing’s not sustainable, so no skiing.’ It’s already out there. We have to fix the whole system.” Two years ago, he caused a hubbub when he pointed out to BusinessWeek that most resorts’ claims to greenness are essentially puffed-up PR.
Schendler sees Aspen’s—and skiing’s—role as a spur, provoking change on a much larger scale. Aspen’s efforts, he says, give it enough cred to do things like file a friend-of-the-court brief in the biggest environmental lawsuit to go before the Supreme Court, Massachusetts v. EPA. The subsequent ruling allowed the EPA to regulate carbon emissions. Weeks later, a review board denied the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Kansas thanks to that ruling. “The idea is to pull the biggest lever,” Schendler says. “Putting solar panels on the Little Nell is a tiny contribution. But who stays at the Nell? George Soros. If you could get George Soros to get into climate action, and all the other massively wealthy and influential people, you’ve pulled a really big lever.”
Photo by Jeff Minton