Since Covid-19 hit, ski industry moguls have danced around what next season will look like. But at Aspen Snowmass, pressure from locals and media has brought some of management's ideas into the open.
First came a letter from CEO Mike Kaplan tempering expectations that things will be as they have been: "No doubt, next ski season will be more of an old school experience, but that could also translate to less noise, fewer distractions and, hopefully, more meaning."
Then, SkiCo exec Rich Burkley gave context to what Kaplan said in a video conference with local health and government officials. The four-mountain resort's goal is, as with most during the pandemic, is to reduce exposure while maintaining the buzz of skiing and snowboarding.
Among the options being considered for the 2020-2021 season are:
Staggering pass holders' choices, funneling them to each of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk on certain days to "change local skiing habits" and make social distancing easier.
Reinstituting blackout days to "spread the pulses" throughout days, weeks, and the season -- including prohibitions for local pass holders during busy holiday times.
Offering weekday passes, another first in Aspen, again to spread out skiing and riding across its massive 5,300 acres of skiable terrain.
None of these season pass alterations are cast in stone for the time being. In fact, SkiCo has delayed some season pass sales -- specifically, the local favorite chamber of commerce ticket -- until after Labor Day. Full-price season pass sales are underway, with a Nov. 20 refund date in force.
Officials say they have kept a close eye on how Southern Hemisphere resorts are dealing with COVID and how some of their ticketing and social distancing strategies would help keep both Aspen-area locals and visitors satisfied, according to management statements. SkiCo officials have said that they expect a precipitous drop in foreign visitors this winter -- bad news for the bottom line but good for everyday local skiers and riders.
Other potential changes include no on-mountain indoor dining, mostly grab-and-go food outlets and expanded outdoor seating -- and heating -- at lodges. Officials have also floated the idea of providing more brown-bag picnicking areas at warming huts and opening up some of the myriads of old cabins around the resort, such as Buckhorn Cabin on Aspen Mountain or the Spider Sabich area at Snowmass.