2001: Culture clash on Aspen Mountain
August 18, 2006
In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.Culture clash on Aspen MountainBy Scott Condon”We gave it a good run,” says O’Donnell. But the Ajax board ban just didn’t cut it anymore.Aspen Mountain will benefit immediately with a big boost in business next winter by allowing snowboarding, but don’t expect the head of the Aspen Skiing Co. to gloat.Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell said he expects Aspen Mountain’s customer visits to soar at least 10 percent during the 2001-02 season.”I will guarantee you that,” he said. “But I won’t be saying ‘I told you so on Aspen Mountain.’ The real test is going to be year two.”O’Donnell and his senior staff convinced the Skico ownership, the Crown family, to end the riding ban by compiling a mountain of evidence showing it made good business sense.But the change was designed as a long-term strategy, said O’Donnell. He didn’t sell the concept to the Crowns by promising an instant increase in companywide skier and rider visits. Even next season, the guaranteed double-digit increase at Ajax could come at the expense of the Skico’s other three local mountains, company officials acknowledge. Ajax might cannibalize its sister resorts of Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.”Remember, we’ve been forcing snowboarders to leave Aspen every morning for years, whether they wanted to or not,” said Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton. “So some snowboarders, and their friends, will choose to spend time on Ajax where in the past they’ve been at one of the other three.”Old-timers and young ‘invaders’ on Aspen MountainSunday, April 1, marks the first loosening up of the Aspen Mountain social scene since glitz became a household word in Aspen in the late 1980s. Beginning on Sunday, young people who dress differently, wear their hair differently and slide downhill differently will begin to make their presence felt.No longer will the majority of the young “ski” bums left in Aspen be forced to literally leave town to go make a few turns. They can now head to one of the most conveniently located ski areas in any ski town in the world – Aspen Mountain.For local young people who snowboard, it may be like visiting a foreign country, populated mostly with people who could be their parents or grandparents.And for older skiers who treasure the quiet, uncompetitive nature of modern Aspen Mountain, it may seem like a group of pierced and tattooed hip-hop fans have suddenly invaded the Metropolitan Opera.