Aspen Skiing Co. Considering ‘Blackout Dates’ for Locals to Manage Crowds Next Year

SnowBrains | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Aspen Mountain
Aspen Mountain in the foreground, Aspen Highlands in the background. Photo Credit: Expedia

Following an open letter by Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan earlier in the week, more details about the company’s plans for the upcoming season were revealed yesterday during a video call with local health care workers and public officials.

On Tuesday, Kaplan mentioned that riding lifts and gondolas will be restricted, social distancing and face-covering measures will be implemented in public spaces, wherever possible ordering and payment of goods and services will take place online, and the resort will be expanding outdoor seating and adding coverage and heat where possible. Admitting they don’t have all the answers yet, he did admit that some of the procedures will be ‘annoying’.

Controversially, it was revealed yesterday by Aspen Skiing Co. (Skico) senior vice president of strategic planning Rich Burkley that the resort is looking into the possibility of ‘blackout dates’ for local skiers to help manage crowds.

“We are looking at spreading pulses throughout the day, throughout the weeks, and throughout the season. So we may be asking locals to ski a lot more in early December than in the holiday season, when we may have other capacity-constraint limitations in place, as well.”

– Rich Burkley

The company traditionally sells a variety of discounted pass offerings to locals, through the Chamber of Commerce, varying from just skiing once or twice a week, up to a fully unlimited season pass. These passes usually go on sale midway through August, but this year the company will wait until after Labor Day. Full priced passes are already on sale now.

“The longer we wait, the better idea we have of what we can offer for our guests and locals.”

– Rich Burkley

Skico is hoping to change locals’ skiing habits. A weekday pass if being considered, which would be a new offering, and incentives could be offered for locals to ski Buttermilk, instead of Snowmass, at certain times, reports the Aspen Times.

“We are probably going to be looking at changing local skiing habits. So you may ski Two Creeks (Snowmass) on an afternoon versus other areas that you would normally do on a Saturday morning.”

– Rich Burkley

Like every global business and operation, Aspen Skiing Co. is investigating how best to operate in the wake of a global pandemic. Financial and economic stability needs to be finely balanced with the health and safety of their employees, customers, and local residents. He was quick to add that nothing has yet been decided, but that managing season pass holders is the biggest unknown.

On Tuesday Kaplan also put a dampener on many of the exuberant social activities that Aspen, CO is famous for, for example hosting the X-Games, saying they will be greatly subdued. However, they are working hard on opening on time and staying open all winter. On-mountain restaurants and dining will also probably not open, the company instead preferring ‘grab and go’ options to be consumed at newly created picnic and outdoor seating areas.

This winter will not be the season for tracking laps and vertical. Instead, take advantage of the situation and reconnect with nature, be more mindful of being in the mountains, the cold on your face, the beauty of pure, virgin snow, spending quality time with friends and family. It’s time to slow down a little…

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