Aspen Skiing Co., RFTA negotiate $6.51 million bus deal
ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority are working on a contract for free bus service to the ski areas, which would cost Skico $6.51 million.
The prior five-year skier-shuttle contract expired in July. Skico and RFTA are negotiating a three-year contract with an option for an additional three years, according to RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship.
The contract is for shuttles in the upper valley that deliver skiers and snowboarders to Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Skico has contracted with RFTA and its predecessor for the service for the past 29 years.
Skico paid an average of about $2.84 million annually during the five years of its old contract, Blankenship said. The annual payments by Skico under the new contract would be less because of various changing variables, he said. For example, RFTA will provide free skier-shuttle service with 22 rather than 23 buses this season because of reduced demand for service to Buttermilk. Two buses, rather than three, will serve Buttermilk. The frequency of service will be reduced from every 10 minutes to every 15.
RFTA uses a complex formula to determine how much to charge Skico for service. It factors in the buses used, the mileage driven, the hours on the road and the estimated days of the ski season.
The service is audited after the season to make sure Skico didn’t pay too much or too little, outside a threshold.
“We kind of view Skico as a partner, and we try to work with them,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship said the service is a “win-win-win” because it provides Skico with an economical service for hauling its customers, it provides the public in the upper Roaring Fork Valley with free service even if they aren’t skiing, and it provides skiers and riders with a convenient way to travel.
“It really augments what we’re doing in the wintertime,” Blankenship said.
The contract for $2 million-plus annually isn’t the largest service contract RFTA signs. The city of Aspen pays about $4.3 million annually for four routes of free bus service year-round and additional seasonal service. The city of Glenwood Springs pays about $900,000 per year for RFTA service.
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In the 1960s The Red Onion as the Aspen Ski Club would host an annual ski fashion preview, which in addition to clothing also included live music and a strip auction.