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When Our Lifts Closed, You Kept Climbing

Hiking in Aspen Colorado near Capital Peak.

Like communities across the world, Aspen and the entire Roaring Fork Valley have been hit hard by the consequences of COVID-19. At a time when distance is part of the solution, it can sometimes be hard to know how best to help. Yet all through this crisis, the Aspen community has found ways to care for each other and stay connected, and Aspen Snowmass has looked to lead and assist however we can.

As Auden Schendler, SVP of Sustainability, puts it: “Societies do not survive great crises as individuals—they survive them as collectives, as communities. This crisis has only put in greater focus our dependence on, and admiration for, the people and place around us.”

After Aspen Snowmass was shut down by state order on March 15, much of our staff pivoted to community work. Within days, we’d set up a market-style food giveaway at the base of Buttermilk, where we prepped, packaged and handed out vegetables, fruits, bread and dairy to the local community. Then we joined forces with Food Bank of the Rockies to run a weekly drive-thru at Basalt Middle School, now in its third month. The turn-out was both immediate and alarming, with cars often lining up as early as 9am for a noon start. The events expertise of our team has been on full display as they lead the efficient distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods, dairy and meat to hundreds of local families.

Of course, the pandemic has impacted households in ways other than food. In a scramble for the ages, a cross-departmental group of Aspen Snowmass employees and community members reached out to 320 internet-less kids to help them get online before distance learning started—and they did it with no parent names for the households. And the list goes on: The Limelight Aspen hotel turned itself over to the local Incident Management Team, which had run out of space. Aspen Snowmass is getting cash to food banks; coordinating food delivery to senior citizens; donating buffs to our hospitals so they can conserve medical-grade masks; and using our purchasing department to procure thousands of diapers and feminine products.
Profile Image of volunteer at the Basalt Food Bank.

Snowmass mountain at sunset in winter.

Snowmass mountain at sunset in winter.

"Societies do not survive great crises as individuals—they survive them as collectives, as communities. This crisis has only put in greater focus our dependence on, and admiration for, the people and place around us." Auden Schendler | Senior Vice President | Aspen Skiing Company

Fresh corduroy with skiers at the bottom of a long run in Snowmass Colorado.
All the while, on the mountains, we kept grooming. Spring freeze-and-thaw cycles can lead to quickly deteriorating conditions on idle slopes, so we maintained a few runs at each ski area so uphillers could have a pleasant ski down. Even though our lifts had to stop spinning for a while, we made sure conditions stayed safe and smooth for anyone who wanted to strap on climbing skins and earn their turns.

Despite our passholders having their season cut short, they’ve continued to show up big. When Snowmass regular Mike Hundert heard we had to shut down and would be issuing partial refunds, he wrote to suggest we offer an easy way for people to donate their pass balance if they wished. We loved the idea. In fact, we loved it so much we offered to match any donation. Now, three months later, our generous community has raised more than $50,000 for the Caring for Community Fund to help the recovery of a place they love.
Our lifts are now turning again, ready for our people from all around the world to come do what they love best. The energy, the laughter, the camaraderie—we’ll certainly be glad to see it back. But there’s still so much more to do. The economic impacts of this crisis will be felt for a long time, and we have no intention of losing sight of that. There’s no doubt this virus has disrupted our lives. But it can’t disrupt our desire to look after one another.
Aspen Snowmass employees help with the Food Bank taking place in Basalt Colorado.

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