Aspen Skiing Co. updates City Council |

Aspen Skiing Co. updates City Council

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN In an effort to be more transparent and better communicators, the top brass of Aspen Skiing Co. met with city officials on Tuesday to talk about the trials and tribulations of being ski area operators.Skico CEO Mike Kaplan told the Aspen City Council that there is a new internal commitment within the company to communicate more with key partners. So thats why Kaplan and the three Daves Skico attorney Dave Bellack, Skico senior vice president David Perry and Dave Corbin, vice president of planning and development, met with council members.The half-hour session consisted mostly of the Skico team presenting their environmental accomplishments, trends in the industry and the banner year Aspen had in terms of snow and skier days.Kaplan, who has been at the helm of Skico for 18 months, joked that perhaps leaving after his second season which saw record snowfall is the right timing.I was thinking about going out on top, he laughed.He added that what sets Aspen-Snowmass apart from other resorts in a competitive industry is the fact that Aspen’s four mountains are independently owned and operated.Perry said skiing and snowboarding has a $2.6 billion annual economic impact for Colorado. And while the 2007-’08 ski season skier visits are still being finalized by Colorado Ski Country USA, Perry expects the numbers to be similar to last year’s 12.5 million skier visits, a record level.But as Skico gains more of the market, company executives are concerned about the pressures on a dwindling bed base in Aspen.As a result, high occupancy rates translate into higher room prices as much as 13 percent in key winter months, Perry said.Theres definitely pressure on that future growth, he said. Perry also offered some demographic statistics: Between 37 and 38 percent of Aspen skiers make more than $250,000 a year and their average age is 44.On the air service front, the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is up 11 percent over last year in terms of flights coming in and out, and there is an increase in how many people flew into Aspen over the Eagle/Vail Airport, Perry said.This is a good competitive advantage we want to maintain, he said.Perry also said the Skico is keeping its advantage also by having the best line up of events, including World Cup, the ESPN Winter X Games and the Bud Light Hi Fi Series, which offers up concerts and activities in the spring.Skico has two years left on a contract with ESPN, with an option to renew for two more years if both parties agree. Perry said X Games executives are in town this week discussing long-range plans.World Cup races will return to Aspen Mountain Thanksgiving weekend next ski season, though the Skico would prefer races on the first weekend in December and will continue to push for that time for future events, which Perry said he hopes are the super G and the downhill. Corbin updated the council on the Skicos development plans this summer, which include overhauling the gondola plaza, renovating the Ajax Tavern and rebuilding the Holiday House, an affordable housing apartment building that burned down last year.The gondola plaza is being torn apart and rebuilt to prevent leaking into the spaces below. The plaza also will be made one level, eliminating the second tier of steps near the gondola building. We think it will be ultimately appreciated by the guest, Corbin said, adding that one level will improve the circulation of people getting to the gondola.People will be able to access the gondola from the west side beginning the weekend of June 14, during the Food & Wine Classic. The eastern side is expected to be done in July.The Ajax Taverns interior is being refurbished and the bar will be moved to the back of the restaurant so tables can be put near the front windows.City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss cautioned Skico executives to work better with the neighbors who live near the Holiday House; they didnt know until recently that the building was going to be