The Future of Skiing: Auden Schendler

The Vice President of Sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company

Apr 15, 2013
Outside Magazine
Auden Schendler skiing sustainability future getting green done aspen skiing company


I think as climate change becomes more and more evident, and as we respond to it with policy decisions like carbon taxation that makes long distance travel more expensive, we’re all going to be forced to slow down.

We’re also going to slow ourselves down as we recognize that living an ethical life means leading a lower carbon life to the extent that we can. We’re going to have to give up some of the craziness of the last half century: the growth, the doing way better than our parents (by faulty metrics), the me, the now, the constant movement, impatience, time poverty.

And what by necessity we’ll have to do is circle back to the things we care about: staycations where we build treehouses with our kids; walks around the neighborhood; sewing torn clothing; gardening. All this instead of jetting off to the next race, or lavish vacation, or training program so our kids become #1. We’re going to have to come back into ourselves, to do what Kurt Vonnegut said we are on earth to do: to fart around, and I would add, fart around with each other.

People fear this, but why? In the ski business, to me this means ending some trends that are killing us. Instead of the crazed need to be open by Thanksgiving, maybe climate change will force us to the sensible realization that it’s good business to open on December 15th and rely more on natural snow.

Maybe smaller, flexible, regional resorts that pulse open or closed with the storm cycles will take over in places where it’s clearly too much trouble to try to be open all the time.

Summer business—which resorts have never been able to crack—will flourish as people come to cooler, higher resorts to escape the heat. They might realize that they don’t need some big, crazy, mechanized thing or event or challenge to help them recreate; all they need is a pair of sneakers and a small pack.

And the result, I think, is that we will be happier. We’ll be doing what we were supposed to be doing in ski resorts anyway: resting, to paraphrase Wendell Berry, in the grace of the world, and being free.

Auden Schendler is the Vice President of Sustainability for Aspen Skiing Company, and author of Getting Green Done.