ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Aspen is at the center of the conversation regarding climate change, with a visit from the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The popular Winter X Games start this weekend, and competing athletes had a chance to talk with the director of the EPA on Thursday.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Administrator Gina McCarthy said this is an issue that’s not an environmental or political one, but rather an economic one. The ski industry puts $67 billion into the nation’s economy each year, and provides almost 1 million jobs.

“I think we’re just making sure we do whatever we can to get the politics out of this issue. Let’s just face the science, let’s just embrace the challenge,” said McCarthy.

She met with top professional snowboarders and executives from Aspen Skiing Company about protecting what matters to them: winter.

“I think this is a really cool opportunity for her to come out here and witness what we’re doing,” said Alex Deibold, a professional snowboarder.

“It means so much to the action sports world, and I think the whole winter sports community, to have this collaboration and to be able to start working together,” added fellow pro boarder Gretchen Bleiler.

With top skiers and snowboarders in Aspen for the X Games they’re using this as an opportunity to reach the younger generation to talk about climate change.

“Right now the winter in Lake Tahoe is 2 weeks shorter for kids today than for their parents. That is a big deal and we need to take action now,” declared McCarthy.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Skiing Company added, “It’s one of the few sports where multiple generations can really enjoy it together. That’s what we’re about and that means, by definition, we want to be in business forever.”

Many people feel all of that is at risk. “Climate change puts us out of business and that’s why we really care about it,” stated Kaplan.

Administrator McCarthy said climate change needs to be an all hands on deck effort. And she says she’s seen Colorado as a leader.

“People are here because they want to be outside and I think they’ve always wanted to have an inclination to protecting that world, and climate is all about that.”

Aspen Ski Company sees climate change as such a big deal that they actually became a power company, harvesting methane from a coal plant near Paonia.

The plant can now make three megawatts of power, enough to offset the energy used to run all four ski area operations throughout the year.

Ski Report

Check the status of trails & lifts at Colorado ski resorts in the CBSDenver.com Ski Report section.

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