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Trump is hurting Colorado skiing, says Aspen Skiing CEO

Author: Joey Bunch - November 9, 2018 - Updated: November 9, 2018

Aspen skyline from an overlook in the winter. (iStock/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s policies on climate change and immigration are hurting Colorado’s signature ski industry, a skiing executive says.

“Our industry is on the front line of the battle,” Mike Kaplan, the CEO of Aspen Skiing Co., said of climate change in an interview with TV host Aaron Harber on KCDO-Channel 3 in Colorado (watch below).

Kaplan said he meets with policymakers in Denver and in Washington, D.C., to urge them to act on climate change. He said the outdoor industry has the platform to deliver such a message, with its lush landscapes and millions of annual visitors.

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He favors a tax dividend to encourage more such programs and penalties for heavy emitters of carbon, a key ingredient of a warmer planet.

“We’ve see a 2 degree increase in Aspen since the resort was founded,” he said on “The Aaron Harber Show.” “That’s not a sustainable trend — 2 degrees every 50 years or so — and they say it’s going to accelerate.”

Kaplan said the iconic Colorado industry, as in other states, depends on foreign visitors and foreign workers, so Kaplan thinks the Trump administration is hurting his business and his town.

> RELATED: Colo. activists warn in D.C. of skiing threat from climate change

“We’re continuously looking for employees,” he said. “And we also have a very large number of Latinos in this community. We are very concerned about the current policies and practices that are pushing them into the shadows.

“You’ve got kids going to school worried about if their parents are going to be there when they get home.”

Trump family members are famous Aspen tourists, dropping a reported $300,000 there during a getaway last year.

Kaplan said resort towns such as Aspen struggle with the issue of affordable housing, making it hard to find staff for hotels, restaurants and other parts of the service industry.

> RELATED: Politics of skiing: As Colorado eyes Winter Games, world politics, climate change share the podium

Aspen Skiing Co. found that about half its employees live at least 20 miles out of town, so it moved all of its work that didn’t need to be at the foot of the mountain to offices in Basalt, where many employees could practically walk to work.

The company is also automating as much of its business as possible by offering self-service kiosks for lift tickets and encouraging people to use apps and buy more things in advance of arriving at the mountain.

The resort provides about 700 units for its 4,000 employees, and the public and private efforts in resort towns struggle to meet the challenge, an issue increasingly common in other parts of Colorado.

Kaplan said the Aspen resorts get only about 11 percent of their business from summer tourism and that needs to change, because world-class restaurants and other amenities are only getting used to their potential.

“For them to sit idle is a challenge for us, and a missed opportunity,” he told Harber.

Skiing makes up about 70 percent of the use of the slopes, with the rest coming from snowboarding, an activity that’s been in decline, Kaplan said. Tastes change and better skis are give skiing and edge, he said.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.