Patagonia, the iconic sportswear company that’s built a worldwide reputation on outdoor athleticism and environmental activism, will no longer supply Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with its products after a resort owner hosted a fundraiser for the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.
Patagonia confirmed Tuesday that it would no longer sell to the resort, its largest single customer in the Jackson Hole area. The resort company operates retail stores in Teton Village at the base of the ski area, as well as Hoback Sports and the Jackson Hole Resort Store in nearby Jackson.
The move came after Jay Kemmerer, one of the resort’s owners, co-hosted a fundraiser Aug. 5, 2021, at a posh Jackson hotel for the House Freedom Caucus. U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) headlined the event. Admission to the event cost a minimum of $2,000 per couple.
The three have parroted the former president’s false claims of election fraud and been panned by conservation groups for their environmental records. Patagonia and the caucus also diverge on social priorities like voting rights and advocacy for minorities and disadvantaged groups, according to widely reported public positions.
Patagonia’s decision centered on “our really strong commitment to using both our business and our brand to advocate for our strong priorities,” said Corley Kenna, head of communications and policy at Patagonia. “When there’s a misalignment on that, then we take action.
The resort president said Jackson Hole is committed to environmental action.
“JHMR retail will continue to offer world-class brands across our retail locations with the aim to provide the best service and product assortment for our guests,” president Mary Kate Buckley said in a statement. “We have been a leader in the ski industry in adopting initiatives to reduce our energy consumption, recycle the consumables used by our employees and guests, and treat the spectacular natural habitat which surrounds us with vision and care.
“We are proud to be the largest mountain resort operating on 100% wind today,” the statement reads. “We will remain focused on operating a world-class mountain resort and protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees.”
Kemmerer’s fundraiser drew a gaggle of protesters, some of whom suggested that skiers and others should no longer support the world-class ski area by buying ski passes or otherwise engaging in business with it, according to reporting by the Jackson Hole News&Guide. One protester, Jorge Colon, said he was willing to cancel the season ski pass he bought to access the expansive ski area, which is internationally known for long runs and radical terrain.
“It’s just a shame that it’s gotten to this point,” Colon, an active septuagenarian who has worked various jobs at the ski area over the decades, told WyoFile. “I know they supply a lot of people with work, but to be backing up that group…is pretty embarrassing.”
Profits vs. priorities
Resort management has struggled to separate itself and its operations from Kemmerer’s political views. Members of the corporation’s board published an opinion piece in the local paper touting the company’s own environmental priorities and its commitment to the community and guests and the welcoming of a diversity of views.
Patagonia’s Kenna acknowledged a “long and strong relationship” with the “workers and the management team at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, if not Kemmerer himself.
“It’s very fair to say that Jackson Hole is a really important community for us,” she said. “We have several [sports] ambassadors that live there. Plenty of my colleagues enjoy going there and appreciate all that the area has to offer,” including the natural environment.
Kenna would not disclose how much business Patagonia does with the ski and resort company.
“It is our largest customer in an area — that’s really critical,” she said. “That tells you something about the importance of this relationship. We don’t take ending it lightly.”
The House Freedom Caucus formed in 2015, and both Jordan and Meadows led it at one time. The caucus and the three fundraising conservatives hold views that are at loggerheads with Patagonia’s ethics.
Jordan and former U.S. Rep. Meadows received 3% and 2% scores respectively for their votes on conservation issues from the League of Conservation Voters. The House stripped Greene of her committee assignments in February for “spreading dangerous and bigoted misinformation,” according to a characterization by The New York Times.
“It’s a shame that those people are doing what they’re doing,” Colon said of Kemmerer, “especially when we know as much as we know today. You can’t get away with that shit in Teton County,” he said of the fundraiser.
Patagonia has undertaken other boycotts, but is willing to reconsider its withdrawal from the mountain resort, Kenna said. If owners recommit to priorities “especially protecting the planet,” Patagonia would “consider sitting down and talking through that,” she said.
“This is very much about staying true to our strong feeling and our responsibility as a benefit corporation to stand up for and advance our priorities, our policies to protect our planet and our communities,” Kenna said.