Aspen Skiing Co. focuses on speed safety at ski area hotspots
Aspen Skiing Co. will continue to make it a major focus to slow down fast skiers, or “straightliners,” in certain “hotspots” at its ski areas, but it won’t employ speed cops outside of ski patrol, according to Chief Operating Officer David Perry.
During a presentation with Skico President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaplan at the Aspen Business Luncheon on Wednesday, some audience members asked what Skico and the ski industry as a whole would do to slow “out of control” skiers and snowboarders.
Perry said groomed slopes, better equipment, lots of competent skiers and snowboarders and mixed traffic among people of all skills can create issues.
“We’re very conscious of potential dangers or the nervousness or the concerns about collisions on the hill,” Perry said.
But he also offered his perspective on conditions at the relatively uncrowded slopes of the four Skico ski areas.
“Other ski areas are far more dense, have more slope density than we do,” Perry said. “It might even be a larger concern, where it’s almost like an urban experience, like you’re on a sidewalk in Manhattan going down the slope.
“Here we have hotspots. We’re trying to do some things to address that,” he continued.
Skico is trying to grab the attention of skiers and snowboarders by creating a “higher profile” at congested areas, he said. New signs were erected last season in the slow-skiing zones. Some say, “Relax, it’s Aspen.” Others say, “No Straightlining.”
Slow skiing in those zones is enforced by ski patrol at certain times, Perry said. Other employees are helping raise awareness of the slow zones among customers.
“We’ve expanded beyond our ski patrol so they’re not just out there acting like cops trying to bust people,” Perry said. “We’re trying to raise awareness but also use our other employees, including our ski pros, trying to stop people if they’re not skiing properly in these slow-skiing areas.”
A woman in an audience of about 80 people at the luncheon suggested Skico hire workers specifically to monitor speeders. The company could enlist them by offering a ski pass, she suggested.
Perry made it clear that speed control will remain in the hands of ski patrol.
“The patrol (does) try to get out. We want well-trained people intercepting people on the hill,” he said.
New uniforms are being looked at for the patrol for next season, Perry said, adding that the current black outfit with a white cross might blend in too well. An orange cross is being considered in the design for next season.
A man in the audience quipped that Skico could always use Tasers to slow speeders down. The suggestion produced a lot of chuckles.
“It is an industry-wide issue to try to control it,” Perry said. “We can’t be everywhere at all times.
“The best thing to do is be super aware of congested areas and make sure we’re informing people and enforcing in those congested areas,” he continued. “This has been a big focus of ours but I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, to handle this one.”
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.