Aspen Skiing Co. has quickly moved to pour water on the controversial suggestion that they are considering blackout days for local pass holders in order to accommodate all guests next season. Aspen Skiing Co. (SkiCo) senior vice president of strategic planning Rich Burkley was quoted saying 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
However, SkiCo’s vice president of communications Jeff Hanle clarified the situation in a phone conversation on Monday, saying they will not be accommodating locals over guests or vice versa.
“We’re not accommodating guests over locals. We’re not accommodating locals over guests. We’re trying to stay open for a full ski season. Under what restrictions? We have no idea.”
– Jeff Hanle
The Aspen Times reported last Friday on the suggestion that SkiCo was considering locals blackout days or managing where and when locals could ski. The comments, which were obviously met with disapproval by locals, were made by SkiCo senior vice president of strategic planning Rich Burkley during a video call with local health care workers and public officials.
“If a certain number of people can ski, then a certain number of people can ski. And there’s not going to be a priority structure that says on that day, ‘Oh hey, sorry we have 8,000 tourists who want to ski, only 2,000 locals can ski.’ That’s not the way it works.”
– Jeff Hanle
Both conversations came after SkiCo’s CEO Mike Kaplan addressed the community in an open letter, revealing more about the company’s plans for the winter in an attempt to manage expectations. 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’.
“There is a very real possibility that we will have to manage access to our mountains on peak days. So, we’re exploring all options to do this in a way that’s fair and equitable. We’re exploring ways to do it that will come from incentives rather than disincentives, but maybe it’s some mixture of both. But that’s really what it’s about.”
– Mike Kaplan
Kaplan was unwilling to expand on the ‘incentives’ but said that they are exploring a multitude of projects and products that have different prices based on access on certain days or certain numbers but was willing to say that SkiCo will not discriminate access to the resort based on pass-status or zip code. In order to operate safely, their main objective is to manage the total number of people on the hill.
A busier than expected summer period has provided the perfect opportunity for observation and experimentation to aid in decision making for what will be an unprecedented winter.
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.
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…