On Ski Bums, Fur, and Climate Change

There are a lot of dirtbags in Aspen. Or, to be more polite, let’s call them ski-bums. Really, there are. Just a few weeks ago I was on top of Highland bowl when I came across Lo Semple, a longtime local, columnist and hard-core skier who had just put a Broncos flag high on the wind tower, at some personal risk. He then jumped the cornice holding a Broncos flag as his wife filmed. (For all the good it did.) Lo is just one kind of ski-bum type here, but the town is as full of such people as it ever was, living cheaply through creative means, working nights, and sliding downhill by day. I guess I was one too, when I lived in El Jebel with four people in a doublewide, one of whom regularly asked, over cereal, “why I hated her…” (Some level of crazy is key to the ski bum life…) I called in to my burger flipping job at noon one day during the big winter of 92-’93 to beg off the lunch shift. “Go!’ said my boss, the owner, who himself had twenty years of ski passes stored next to the cash register.

Photo by Erik Johanson

Photo by Erik Johanson

Yes, yes, we have wealthy people too. And fur and leather and all that. But we want people to know we’re not JUST that. We are more. A recent article in Men’s Journal does a good job, we think, of painting Aspen for what it is, focusing on our fight to stop climate change and protect the ski bum from extinction. The article describes Aspen’s affluence and waste, for sure, but it also understands this town’s place in the world, as a center of power that can influence change and serve as a lab for progress.

The article quotes local Mirte Mallory, who co-founded Aspen’s bike share program “We- Cycle:” “Living here is a privilege. It’s our responsibility to be stewards.”

It quotes ex-Mayor Mick Ireland (who really is a ski bum, even with, or because of, his law degree. His credentials: he once showed up to a government meeting wearing a fleece vest with no shirt on under it.) Mick said: “We have the liberty and the time to think about the big picture.”

We think the article is worth a read, because it wrestles with some big questions, some more uncomfortable than others. Aspen isn’t perfect, the article makes clear, but perhaps we have a role to play anyway. The piece was written by Nathaniel Rich, a well-known journalist whose latest book “Odds Against Tomorrow,” is must read Cli-Fi about climate risk, insurance, data, being human, and a flood that engulfs New York City, written before Sandy did just that. Take a look—you’ll learn something about this town, our company, and the extent, or limits, of our influence.

Read the Men’s Journal Article


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About Auden Schendler

Auden Schendler works at Aspen Skiing Company, and focuses on big scale solutions to climate change, primarily clean energy and activism. Aspen Skiing Company's work was recently the subject of a feature story in Men's Journal Magazine that sums up our approach very well. You can read the article here: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/aspen-and-the-end-of-snow-20140117