Exclusive: In Letter to Employees, Aspen Ski Company CEO Warns that US Ski Season is in Jeopardy

Clay Malott | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Aspen Snowmass resorts were shut down by a mandatory closure order from the state government on March 15. Now it may be happening again. Photo credit: Aspen Daily News.

SnowBrains obtained the following letter that Aspen SkiCo CEO Mike Kaplan sent to SkiCo employees on November 16, 2020. The letter warns that the current COVID spike is threatening ski season. This letter is partially specific to Aspen but also alludes to county shutdowns of ski resorts all across the country.

Read Kaplan’s exclusive letter below, and do your part to slow the spread!

Hello Everyone,

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving and ski season are already upon us. The COVID time warp is in full effect. Our operating plans have been submitted to the state, snowmaking crews are making great progress, and natural snow continues to accumulate, so we are looking good for a Thanksgiving opening.

One problem: COVID is spreading like wildfire across our community. We all knew that a second wave was coming, but the momentum it picked up during the offseason is surprising. It’s putting what we all worked so hard to accomplish—a safe and long-lasting ski season—in jeopardy. The key warning lights are flashing red, with infection rates and state hospital capacities pushing past March levels. The fact that our case counts are rising so fast during the quieter and less crowded offseason is particularly concerning. It is clear evidence that spread is not only about how many people are here visiting but also about how we all personally act and interact. Local or visitor, the critical focus needs to be on modeling the 5 Commitments of Containment at all times. We’ve got to stop the spread now.

On Wednesday, our community will be placed into the orange level on the COVID meter, which means capacities will be reduced to a 25-perecnt cap in all indoor spaces, and we’ll be one step away from the Stay At Home level. According to the county’s contact tracers, the culprit is social gatherings where people get together and hang out indoors without masks and for extended periods of time. The data shows that if we wear masks, wash our hands, and avoid close contact, we can bend the curve and get back to a lower infection rate and reduced restrictions. But to get there, we will all have to sacrifice and avoid social gatherings. Similarly, we all need to think about when we interact with others. To that end, I want to reiterate that we should all be working from home if we can, and we should not be having indoor in-person meetings unless they are critical. When we do meet in person for work, everyone needs to keep their mask up and maintain 6 feet of distance between participants.

Our collective goal is really straight-forward: bend the curve before we open so we have the community capacity to support the visitation levels that come with the ski season. As a cautionary example, almost all European resorts have delayed their season openings to mid-December at the earliest, and many of those resort communities are under Stay at Home restrictions. We don’t want to go back there.

I know that’s hard for all of us, particularly this time of year we like to celebrate the return of winter, but we have no choice. We all rallied to beat back the spread in the spring; let’s do it again. And it is going to take all of us, so please pass the word along to your friends. We must all change our behaviors or face the very real possibility of harsh restrictions coming back at us.

So spread the word: If you want a great ski season, stop the COVID spread.

Mike Kaplan President and CEO ASPEN SKIING COMPANY

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