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Resort owner’s donations to Lauren Boebert’s campaign irks ski industry climate advocates

Owner of Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has long supported candidates who oppose progressive climate policy
A snow gun makes snow. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Western Slope Republican who considers policies to curb climate change part of an “anti-energy agenda,” has raised $6.3 million for her 2022 reelection campaign. A list of the employers of her top donors published by OpenSecrets.org includes “Jackson Hole Mountain Resort” in Wyoming, at No. 15.

Jay Kemmerer, who owns Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and committees this year, including $5,800, the maximum allowed, to Boebert’s reelection campaign. His wife, Karen, also has donated to Boebert’s campaign.

The support of Boebert is not sitting well with ski industry insiders who are pushing ski areas to advocate for more aggressive climate policies, like the $369 billion climate change resilience investments in the Inflation Reduction Act.

For more than a decade, a growing contingent of ski resorts, including Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has worked with climate change advocates like Protect Our Winters to persuade other resorts to do more than pursue environmental sustainability in operations. There’s a growing push for ski areas, winter sport businesses and winter athletes to use their clout to lobby politicians to support climate-friendly policies.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, for example, is one of several resort companies that support Protect Our Winter’s advocacy and activist programs calling for more aggressive federal action to limit the impacts of a warming climate. The resort in 2019 transitioned to 100% wind power for all its electrical needs. New construction at the resort meets green-building standards and the resort is developing a climate action plan “to guide our values, business practices and future,” reads the environmental section of the resort’s website.

Finding out the resort owner also is giving money to a politician who is actively working against those climate-change missions “is kind of like finding out your mom is buying candy for the schoolyard bully who steals your lunch money,” said a resort insider who asked not be identified due to the pass-sharing agreements many resorts have with each other.

Kemmerer drew environmentalists’ ire last year when he hosted a fundraiser for the House Freedom Caucus, a group that includes Boebert and has opposed many climate-friendly federal policies.

Protect Our Winters executive director Mario Molina last year penned an editorial after the fundraiser calling for Americans of all political persuasions to stop sending anti-climate candidates to Washington, D.C. He said Kemmerer, the owner of the largest resort in Wyoming, could “have a significant impact on our national politics.”

“We hope to see Jackson Hole’s ownership align political action with the resort’s sustainability efforts and become a true partner on this issue instead of an adversary,” Molina wrote.

The fundraiser prodded clothing maker Patagonia to yank its products from the ski resort’s retail stores.

“I’m saddened to see the Kemmerer family basically working against their own resort’s best interest in this way,” said Aspen skier Chris Davenport, a climate advocate who works closely with Protect Our Winters. “Ideology getting in the way of smart ski resort business.”

Rick Enstrom, the retired executive whose family owns Colorado’s Enstrom Candies, warns the scrollers of federal election records to note the difference between a company giving money to candidates – which is illegal under federal law – and its employees. Enstrom Candies, for example, is listed as the second largest 2022 donor to Boebert’s reelection campaign on the nonprofit opensecrets.org. That is “flat-out wrong,” he said. FEC records do not show Enstrom or his sister, who runs the company, directing any money to Boebert this year. (They did give to Boebert last year and some of those funds were earmarked for 2022.)

He views the listing of his family’s business, which is co-owned by his sister Jamee Simons, as “a way to injure our family because we are involved in politics.”

“We did not donate anything to Lauren Boebert this round. She has plenty of friends and does not need our little bit,” Enstrom said. “Coming after corporations is part of the game, I guess, even though a corporation cannot donate to any candidate or committee under federal law.”

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.