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Patagonia severed ties with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) last week after co-owner Jay Kemmerer co-hosted a fundraiser for the House Freedom Caucus on August 5, 2021. The fundraiser, which cost a minimum of $2,000 per couple to attend, hosted former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), and U.S. Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The resort owner’s support for the right-wing House Freedom Fund stirred up controversy in town. Protestors gathered the day of the fundraiser, waving signs that read “Trump Is The Real Liar,” “Stop Funding Hate,” “Stand Up For Truth,” and “Hey JHMR, Your Green(e) Washing Is Showing.”
“As the owners of a major player in the ski industry and a major employer in Teton County, the Kemmerers have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders,” says Ariel Kazunas, Jackson local and previous resort employee who was at the protest. “But instead of addressing the climate issues plaguing our ski community, they are choosing to fundraise for a woman who believes “space lasers” start wildfires, who is outwardly and unapologetically racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, narcissistic, hateful, and willful in her desire to spread lies and fearmonger.”
Greene, who was stripped of her committee assignments by the House in February for “spreading dangerous and bigoted misinformation,” according to the New York Times, is a known climate change denier, QAnon supporter, and has echoed President Trump’s declarations of election fraud, among other social issues.
In response, Patagonia will no longer have its product available for sale in the resort’s retail stores in Teton Village as well as Hoback Sports and the Jackson Hole Resort Store. The California-based apparel company has made a name for themselves as an industry leader in environmental activism, with a mission to use their voice and economical power to implement solutions to the climate crisis.
“Those that know us in Jackson Hole are aware that we make business decisions and build relationships in alignment with our values and advocacy efforts,” says Corley Kenna, Patagonia’s Head of Policy and Communications. “Just over a year ago, we stopped advertising on Facebook and Instagram as part of our commitment to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation on climate. We join with the local community that is using its voice in protest, and we will continue to use our business to advocate for policies to protect our planet, support thriving communities and a strong democracy.”
SKI reached out to JHMR for a comment, who emphasized their commitment to the guest experience and a sustainable future. “JHMR retail will continue to offer world-class brands across our retail locations with the aim to provide the best service and product assortment for our guests,” says resort President Mary Kate Buckley. “We have been a leader in the ski industry in adopting initiatives to reduce our energy consumption, recycle the consumables used by our employees and guests, and treat the spectacular natural habitat which surrounds us with vision and care. We are proud to be the largest mountain resort operating on 100-percent wind today. We will remain focused on operating a world-class mountain resort and protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees.”
However, resort employees and local skiers who don’t share Kemmerer’s far-right politics are struggling to stay linked to the resort.
“I worked as the PR Manager for JHMR for many years. Many of the employees were and are today invested in real efforts to make the operation more sustainable; real people doing real work,” says Zahan Billimoria, Patagonia athlete, mountain guide, and longtime Jackson resident. “But at the same time the owner was and continues to invest in the politicians who are funding the destruction of our planet. Tasking staff with ‘greening’ your operation and at the same time investing in making the problem 100-times worse? I bet no one feels worse than the employees themselves, undermined by their own leader.”
Billimoria challenges athletes who represent other brands to take action and encourages JHMR to publicly reject climate deniers. “We would be on our way to a sustainable future if it wasn’t for the power of a very few wealthy individuals and the fossil fuel lobby behind them.”
Patagonia’s Kenna urges JHMR to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to a sustainable future. “We would revisit our decision if we saw a serious commitment to a healthy planet and healthy communities from the owners of JHMR,” says Kenna. “There is definitely a disconnect when a company or person says they support climate policies and a transition to wind and solar energy and yet they support politicians that deny the climate crisis and advocate for more oil and gas infrastructure.”
Kazunas is encouraged by Patagonia’s action and feels hopeful that the community can work together to incite change. “If more community members decide not to purchase season passes, if more employees decline to return for another season, they will be forced to come to some sort of reckoning. The Kemmerers have a lot of power in this community, but that doesn’t mean the community is powerless to voice how they feel and to take action.”
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