By Christine Benedetti
When COVID-19 ground society a halt — including the operations on all four of Aspen Skiing Co.’s mountains — food insecurity became a reality for many around the world. For those already experiencing food insecurity, it only intensified. The Roaring Fork Valley wasn’t immune. So SkiCo’s events team pivoted from executing classic spring extravaganzas (like Bud Light Big Air) to operating a drive-through community food bank.

Food Bank of the Rockies was a steadfast partner, supplying troves of granola, towers of Triscuits, pallets of applesauce, and more canned beef than we knew existed. They made a concerted effort to source locally, especially throughout the summer when produce was abundant. They also worked to increase the supply of culturally relevant items and fill the seemingly bottomless demand for diapers.

Each week SkiCo served about 300 families. The biggest distribution was for Thanksgiving, where the team slung hundreds of turkeys to ensure 450 families had a full Thanksgiving meal. Families would start lining up as early as at 9:30am for the noon distribution.

“We saw many familiar faces, as well as newcomers,” says Hannah Berman, SkiCo’s sustainability and philanthropy manager, who helped with the company’s food distribution efforts. “We welcomed everyone. No questions asked.”
Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company in the Roaring Fork Valley
Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company in the Roaring Fork Valley

A local woman who attended regularly surprised the team with homemade tamales, and they gratefully scarfed them down after she picked up her groceries. One baby in her mom’s lap, whose gaggle of siblings toppled around the backseat of their van parked in line, discovered her little hands were just strong enough to honk the car horn like a Morse code blast into the parking lot. The mom sat tinged with chagrin, but we thought it was pretty cute. Some folks drove from as far as Parachute to visit the team and grab food boxes each week.
Other times, the team was touched by the generosity of those who donated.

"One day an Audi rolled up and asked if they could donate some food," remembers Joey Woltemath, Senior Operations Manager for Event Marketing at Aspen Skiing Company. "And of course we said 'yes.' She opened up the back and there were bags of food stacked to the ceiling. Her daughter got out and started to help unload and the women said, 'we just got our stimulus check and decided we didn't need it, so we went shopping for the food bank.' The stories of kindness and generosity have been endless over the last year."

Fifty-two weeks since the food drive started, SkiCo has handed out more than 1.175 million pounds of food. (“We thought it would be a couple weeks,” says Berman. “We had no idea that it would last this long.”) And at the request of a local nonprofit, SkiCo also ran weekly food distributions in Glenwood Springs and Rifle for 20 weeks. Even when the events team’s scheduled roared back to life, they managed the distribution with the same level of care and attention as the world-class competitions for athletes whizzing off the super pipe to qualify for the Olympics. In all, SkiCo donated 7,150 labor hours and served more than 13,480 households.

“COVID shed a light on the fact that our valley has historically been underserved,” says Berman. “And one of the silver linings of this distribution is that, in partnership with Aspen Family Connections and Food Bank of the Rockies, we’ve built infrastructure and, critically, trust within the community to feed more families.”
Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company and Food Bank of the Rockies in the Roaring Fork Valley
Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company and Food Bank of the Rockies in the Roaring Fork Valley

Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company
Addressing Food Insecurity with Aspen Skiing Company

Addressing Food Insecurity in the Roaring Fork Valley
Addressing Food Insecurity in the Roaring Fork Valley

After a successful year-long run with the Food Banks of the Rockies, SkiCo is now proud to hand the program’s reins over to them and the Safe and Abundant Nutrition Alliance, a regional coalition at the forefront of developing solutions to food access.

These food providers will continue their services as long as people need it.

“COVID put a magnifying glass on all these issues, like food insecurity. And it’s a huge challenge to make the systems more effective for the people that use them,” says Berman. “These changes will be good in the long run.”
Running food banks for a year will alter our perspective forever. We want to thank everyone in the Aspen Snowmass community who has so generously given their time and charity during this continued crisis. This era is unprecedented. The generosity of this community, we’re proud to say, is not.

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