Mike Kaplan, the CEO of the Aspen Skiing Company, explains how he in charge of more than just winter fun, as he describes the expansion of Aspen’s year-round activities calendar. Some of the summer activities he describes include obvious ones such as hiking and mountain biking but with a special Aspen-twist. The “Lost Forest,” climbing wall, canopy course, zip lines, ropes course, and mountain roller coaster offer many more options for warm weather vacationers.
Mike addresses affordable housing, a big issue for his business due to the exorbitant cost of housing in Aspen, as one of the most affluent towns in the country. Once you know the average price of a home in Aspen is over $4 million, it is no surprise that the hundreds of employees who service the town at hotels, restaurants, and other establishments as well as give guided tours and work at the shops in the town cannot afford to live anywhere near where they work.
The Aspen Skiing Company has taken measures including moving non-essential personnel out of town, creating offices in nearby cities allowing employees to live in more affordable communities and then be able to walk to work. The company also is taking on the direct responsibility of building new affordable housing units in Aspen.
Kaplan reveals Aspen Skiing is automating as much of its business as possible, resorting to do-it-yourself kiosks for skiers to buy and print lift tickets. While this will certainly help resolve some congestion, he does not discuss the potential loss of jobs that this creates but does intimate this will improve the customer experience.
Mike and Aaron tackle the impacts of Climate Change on the weather-dependent ski industry. The reduction of snowfall also creates an issue for Colorado watersheds, which will cause dire economic impacts for many of the communities that depend upon mountain- and snowfall-based water sources.
Kaplan explains how he is focused on accelerating the resort’s shift toward Green Energy. He argues there should be a tax dividend program regarding the emissions of carbon which penalizes those emitting carbon and rewarding those who have less of an impact on the environment.
Mike strongly believes it is the responsibility of the resorts to lead the charge toward a cleaner and more renewable future, especially because the industry and the snow they and millions of people depend on are at stake. Part of this leadership includes meeting with legislators in Denver and in Washington, D.C. because he explains the imperative need for legislation related to Climate Change for real solutions to start having an impact.
Lastly, Mike explains how Aspen’s relatively large population for such a geographically small community — both permanent and cyclical — includes significant numbers of immigrants and foreign visitors. He deplores how the impacts of the current Administration’s policies toward immigration have had a negative impact on his town and company. As one of the highest profile resort cities in the world, Aspen draws a large influx of people globally who are looking to work in the hospitality industry along with a concomitant clientele of foreign travelers and visitors which are sizable in number. Overall, he seems concerned but optimistic in the future and appears always ready to hit the slopes himself.