Melting Art with a Message

The Melted Gondola at the top of Aspen Mountain helps us visualize the impacts of global warming—and encourages us to act.

The Melted Gondola at Aspen Snowmass

This winter, as skiers, snowboarders, and sightseers exit the Silver Queen Gondola at 11,212 feet and make their way towards the Sundeck, they may notice a solo gondola car, resting on a platform strategically perched atop Aspen Mountain. They may also notice that this particular gondola car is not in operation—because, in fact, it’s melting.

Or rather, it’s been artfully designed to appear as if it’s melting, the way ice cream melts on pavement on a hot July day—slowly liquifying under the pressure of its heated surroundings.

Since Aspen Snowmass first opened in 1946-47, Aspen, Colorado’s average temperature has warmed by three degrees Fahrenheit. In total, Aspen Snowmass has lost 30 days of winter since 1980 alone. This season, as part of our 75th anniversary, we’ve installed The Melted Gondola art installation at the top of Aspen Mountain to get people thinking about the next 75 years—and to draw attention to the urgent need to aggressively address climate change.

"We've Warmed 0.4 Degrees Per Decade"

Smoke rises from the distant Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon in 2020.

Smoke rises from the distant Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon in 2020.

“In the summer, we’re increasingly threatened by fire and flood; we’ve had two major fires in the last five years and flooding that has closed and destroyed parts of Interstate 70.” –Auden Schendler, SVP of Sustainability Aspen Skiing Company

“We’ve warmed about 0.4 degrees per decade,” says Aspen Skiing Company’s SVP of Sustainability, Auden Schendler. “In the summer, we’re increasingly threatened by fire and flood; we’ve had two major fires in the last five years and flooding that has closed and destroyed parts of Interstate 70.” Collectively, extreme weather due to the warming climate can have a major impact on everything from resort terrain to community infrastructure like roads. Not to mention an increase less reliable snowfall, which creates shorter seasons, negatively impacting the region’s economy.

Simply put, climate change is putting skiing out of business.

Though the Melted Gondola was fabricated entirely in Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley by an artist named Chris Erikson, the piece was inspired by James Dive and The Glue Society’s Hot with the Chance of a Late Storm, a potent message in sculptural form about our quickly warming world.

“We wanted to create a statement piece that represents not just our resort, but our whole industry,” says Aspen Snowmass Creative Director Mark Carolan. “With it, we are encouraging dialogue, support, and most importantly—through our close connection with POW—strong action.”

The Melted Gondola offers visitors an opportunity to reflect on what life would look like if winter melted away. In partnership with Protect Our Winters (POW) a community of athletes, scientists, creatives, and business leaders advancing non-partisan climate policies— we encourage visitors to post photos of the art with the hashtag #PowerToPOW, and more importantly, to donate and become members. "We need a movement to create large-scale policy change on climate. POW is that movement, mobilizing the outdoor industry as a political force,” says Schendler, noting that the ski and larger outdoor industry are generally enthusiastic, but have historically not wielded large amounts of power the way other industries, like oil and gas or big pharma, often do.
The Melted Gondola - art atop Aspen Mountain
While the Melted Gondola is an opportunity for people to reflect on the impact of the warming climate and to become involved with one of the leading organizations in climate activism, we also hope it is but one step of many.

“The best way to be a part of the fix is to think systemically,” says Schendler. “Sure, that’s voting, but it’s also writing senators, it’s pressuring your favorite businesses to use their voice and influence in Washington; it’s getting into local political and getting your town to implement fixes like code changes, electrification, and clean energy standards. Joining Protect Our Winters will give you all kinds of action steps.”

Aspen Snowmass plans to continue building on the Melted Gondola campaign and its partnership with POW throughout the 2021-2022 season, generating further opportunities for people to engage with the fight against climate change.

“Look around. Reach down and touch the snow. Think about your next run.” Reads the sign next to the Melted Gondola. “Do you want all of this to melt away?
Skier navigating bumps at Aspen Mountain

Visit the Melted Gondola

Guests are encouraged to visit the Melted Gondola throughout the season and to post pictures of the installation utilizing the hashtag #PowerToPOW. Become a member of Protect Our Winters and learn more about climate action today.