Aspen doubles-down on CEO’s political rant, upsets conservatives in the process

Aspen doubles-down on CEO’s political rant, upsets conservatives in the process

PoliticsDecember 04, 2017 By Will Brendza

When it comes to ski corporations, politics is usually left out of the business model. Picking a side generally has the ugly effect of alienating certain customers. But in these strange times, even that age old rule of operation seems to be changing. And Aspen Skiing Company is leading the charge, with a new ad campaign known as “The Aspen Way.”

Last December, Mike Kaplan, the president and CEO of Aspen Skico, wrote an op-ed titled “We’re Still Here” that really shook people up — conservatives, to be more specific. His was a statement and response to the 2016 presidential election, and in the article, Kaplan framed Trump and his administration’s values (and generally terrible character) as problematic for the company.

“Since the election,” wrote Kaplan, “there have been local and national incidences of intolerance. And the entire campaign stood out in rejecting the pressing need for action on climate and environmental regulation, jeopardizing our wild landscapes and outdoor lifestyles.”

Kaplan went on to blast the Trump administration for its negligent environmental stewardship policies, hauled Mike Pence over the coals for his intolerance of the gay community, and rebuked Donald Trump himself for his blatant and repulsive racism: “Trump has terrified many adult Latinos in our valley and children in our schools with the threat of deportation, and he has made even legal citizens feel unwelcome.”

These were bold words from the CEO of such a big business. And, naturally, the MAGA crowd ignited in a flurry of Facebook dissension.

“You there in lily white aspen....,” commented someone, “I will take my skiing business elsewhere thanks to your inflammatory post masked within your commercial enterprise.”

Another woman wrote: “The war on coal and steel, etc...has ruined this country and those who earn a living from the jobs provided. Most people in the country don't earn a living raising pot and working at a ski resort. Millennials are you???”

“The Aspen elite are so out of touch with the forgotten man," opined someone else. "You people just want cheap labor to shovel snow!”

One might think that, after such fearsome comments, Skico would unceremoniously fire Kaplan, publish a public apology and furiously backpedal away from politicizations of the business like so often happens.  

However, that’s not the Aspen way.

Regardless of the mixed responses to his words, neither Kaplan nor Skico backed down. And in fact they've doubled-down, taking the sentiment to the next level. This year, they’ve introduced a brand-new ad campaign that only fortifies the stance Kaplan’s op-ed posited. Dubbed “The Aspen Way,” the campaign proudly spotlights the company’s values, toting four keynote words: Love, Commit, Unity and Respect.

The webpage for #TheAspenWay states immediately at the top, “We believe there’s never been a more important time to proclaim from the mountaintops what we stand for, and embrace what brings us together as people.”

Christian Knapp, Aspen Skico’s Chief Marketing Officer, says he isn't worried about the potential for losing certain conservative customers.

“We are a values driven company,” says Knapp over the phone, “and we believe this is the right thing to do, and we hope that our guests believe that as well. We’re not afraid to take as stance. And if we alienate some people in the process, we’re okay with that.”

It’s not only an admirable position from what many consider the “One Percent,” but also grounded. Aspen Skico just partnered with KSL to purchase Intrawest Resorts, acquiring both Steamboat and Winter Park in a massive $1.5 billion merger. If they feel an impact from flustered conservatives boycotting their business, it’ll likely be a drop out of the bucket.

When it comes down to it, the main themes of The Aspen Way campaign aren’t even political by nature. Love, Commit, Unity and Respect — they’re more humanitarian principals than any kind of political stance.

If someone takes issue with those values, the slopes are better off without them.

[all photos courtesy Aspen Snowmass]