The Future of the Environment

We asked Auden Schendler what he thinks about the future of the environment.
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We asked Auden Schendler what he thinks about the future of the environment.
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Auden Schendler is one of skiing’s greatest nags. As green guru for Aspen Ski Resorts, one of the most environmentally progressive ski areas in the world, Schendler is a loud voice urging skiers and the industry to take action against climate change. Several years back, Aspen even ran ads calling winter an endangered species. We asked Schendler about his vision—and hopes—for skiing in 2086.

SKI › Climate change will affect every industry. What is the optimistic scenario for skiing in 2086?

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AS › Ideally, atmospheric CO2 levels will be declining by then toward a stable level of 350 parts per million thanks to a War on Carbon. Lots of clean-powered and community-owned resorts are thriving. People have money to ski since cleanenergy economies have put more people to work. We have more skiers than ever thanks to declining rates of asthma, cancer and obesity and mercury pollution due to the clean-power revolution. Health-care technology has improved so much that I’m on my fifth hip and I’m hitting the gap jumps bigger than ever.

SKI › What is the worstcase scenario?

AS › As predicted by climate studies conducted way back in 2011, temperatures are nine to 11 degrees Fahrenheit warmer over most of the inland United States. Dust storms plaster the mountain snowpack with grit that accelerates melting. Skiing as we knew it in the past is gone. Climate change is having such an impact on economies that people aren’t thinking about skiing but are instead focused on dealing with disasters such as drought and fire and floods. I call this the “loss of joy” scenario, where society is preoccupied with survival and we have lost some of the opportunities to enjoy the things that make us happy— recreation, arts and culture. Obviously, this is not where we want to be.

SKI › What adaptation measures will the ski industry have undertaken to continue providing snowy slopes, and how will technological innovations factor into this?

AS › All viable mountains will have massive water storage, equal to annual snowmaking volume, 60 million gallons and up. Advanced weather forecasting and snowmaking technologies mean resorts can make lots of snow rapidly when it gets marginally cold. Slopes have been covered with artificial AstroSnow to eliminate bare spots. This surface also helps deal with torrential summer storms and channels explosive spring runoff. All lifts will have downloading capability so we can ski the tops of the peaks and avoid the base.

SKI › What will the Aspen valley look like in 2086?

AS › The season is shorter. We’re skiing the top 2,000 feet of our mountains. There is more moisture in the air due to evaporation caused by warmer temperatures in the Pacific. Cold snaps produce megablizzards that drop tons of snow. But the skiing in the higher parts of the Rockies is as good as it ever was.