Calling all uphillers: Aspen Skiing Co. sets virtual meeting to discuss policy changes
IF YOU PARTICIPATE
What: Skico virtual town hall on uphill access.
When: Nov. 10 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Why: To discuss changes to policies and review safety protocols.
How: The event is free. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an invite to the Zoom meeting.
Aspen Skiing Co. will hold a virtual town hall Tueday to explain changes to its uphilling policy and remind enthusiasts about safety procedures.
Skico has been an industry leader in embracing people traveling uphill at its resorts, but the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing changes this winter.
“We’re still excited about uphillers,” said Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president, mountain operations. “Your first inkling with COVID is just shut it off. That’s not who Aspen Skiing Company is.”
One of the big changes for this winter is requiring uphillers to stay on one of four designated and signed routes at Snowmass during ski area operations. There haven’t been assigned routes there in the past. Designated routes also will be signed at Buttermilk, where there will be three, and Aspen Highlands, where there will be one.
Also new this season are across-the-board blackout dates at the four ski areas from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 and Feb. 13 and 14. Uphillers will be prohibited during ski area operations on those dates, Ertl said. Uphillers can still access the slopes before and after official operating hours on the blackout dates, she said.
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Aspen Mountain will remain status quo with no uphill access during operating hours, Skico’s website said. Uphillers are welcome before and after operations on the designated route.
Ertl said there is a possibility that uphill access will have to be closed on other days because of a high level of business this season. The popularity of uphilling has surged over the past decade. Participants attach climbing skins to their skis or split snowboards or they walk up, with most using some type of device on their feet for added traction.
All things uphill will be hashed over in a panel discussion at the town hall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The discussion will be held via Zoom. Members of the public who want to participate must send Skico an email and they will receive an invitation (see infobox).
Panelists will include Ertl, Aspen Mountain Manager J.T. Weldon; Buttermilk Mountain Manager Travis Benson; Cory Ross, winter trails manager at Buttermilk; and Tony Wrone, snowmaking manager at Snowmass. The moderator will be Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle. There will be an opportunity to ask questions.
Some of the issues Skico has experienced in past seasons include lack of visibility by uphillers heading up the slopes after dark, uphillers venturing too close to snowmaking or grooming operations, and not picking up after dogs.
Dogs are prohibited on the slopes between 7:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m.
Last season, Skico embraced uphillers even after lift-served skiing abruptly was halted by the state of Colorado over COVID concerns March 14. Skico groomed a handful of trails at Tiehack and Snowmass to keep conditions shipshape for uphillers well into April. Skico officials expect uphilling to be popular again this season.
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Snowmass Village’s status as a resort and as a community isn’t an “either/or” debate, according to the town’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan. The question now is how the town can balance both, ensuring a sustainable resort economy that also supports the local community.