by Roger Marolt
It’s time for full disclosure.
We have a conflict of interest.
It’s about global warming.
It is bad for the planet, but very good for Aspen.
The truth is that Aspen has and will continue to benefit immensely from rising global temperatures, maybe more so than anywhere on the planet. Rising seas won’t reach us. Geography will prevent the worst damage of biblically sized downpours. Huge snowstorms? Bring ‘em on! Fires? They have always been a possibility, but historical evidence would seem to preclude California-size blazes from occurring here for various reasons related to altitude, density of forests, size of trees, and topography. (Disclaimer: this is not a guarantee.) In the meantime, Aspen goes bonkers, in the good way, by almost every measure of pleasure, excess, and enjoyment.
This is the truth.
All you have to do is look out the window. Winters are shorter. Summers are longer. And Aspen is thriving more than ever. There is no end in sight.
Proof is in the trend for home values and sales tax receipts over the past three decades. Examine average hotel room rates. Look at vacancy rates. Try to square up lift ticket prices with reality. As average annual snowfall has been decreasing, all metrics have shot up meteorically.
Of course there are Aspen conflict of interest deniers out there, but you tell me which rabbit holes in cyberspace they are going down to come out believing Aspen can preach to the world about the dangers posed by greenhouse gases with a straight face. It’s a bit like burping through your nose while telling starving people in Africa they need to watch their cholesterol.
It’s not like there weren’t clues to what would happen to us if our planet warmed a tad. On or around the middle of December 1983 it began snowing in Aspen. It seemed to snow about six inches every night. I don’t remember the sun shining for weeks. The skiing was as fine as I have experienced. And how do you suppose holiday visitors reacted? Well, they were ecstatic, at first. But, after a few days they started complaining. They couldn’t see. It was too cold. The powder was too deep. Seriously! People were going home early. Others began canceling their reservations. It was not what you would expect at a world class ski resort.
Fast forward to the holiday season of 2017. We got nothing but man-made ice on the rocks for Christmas. The skiing was as bad as I have ever seen it, except for 1976. But, skies were blue and afternoon temps hovered around 60 all week. How do you think our visitors reacted then? Most seemed pretty bummed out when they arrived to bare, brown hillsides. They tried to make the best of it. And, succeeded epically! They loved the sunshine. A few runs top to bottom on the manmade snow was plenty and not that different from a what they did in a good winter, except they could see and it was warm. And the shopping, oh the shopping! And, dining outside in December? Ahhh, the good life! Global warming is a winner!
I am not dissing tourists. I get it. As far as I’m concerned, winters are never too short in Aspen while summers are never long enough. We are all familiar with the old saying, “I came for the winters, but stayed for the summers.” Our aging population could add an appendage: “Now that summers are longer, I’m staying later.”
I have long confessed to being a skier who doesn’t love winter. You think that I must be an anomaly, but if you start talking about it around town you will be surprised how many cop to this contradiction.
Because we are being enriched by the phenomena, I don’t think we can link global warming to the skiing, or whitewater rafting conditions or muted fall colors and sustain credibility. As the tides rise on the coasts, our personality gets shallower. The views aren’t getting worse. The skiing is still fantastic. The drought isn’t diminishing our cash flows. As for the smoke in our skies a few weeks each summer? Poor us.
The actual poor of the world are suffering from this, while we Aspenites get richer. This is not a crisis for mountain resorts and likely will never be. Skiing in Pandora’s is a net positive looking at it from downtown Aspen. The view is more ominous to the impoverished population elsewhere, situated more tentatively in climate change’s destructive path.
This was originally published in The Aspen Times and republished here with permission of the writer. He thinks Aspen wouldn’t expand so much locally, if its residents looked at its effects globally. [email protected]