Aspen Skiing Co. wants new skier shuttle to improve access to Highlands
Aspen Skiing Co. is making good on a pledge to address weekend crowding at Aspen Highlands by paying for more bus service.
Skico is negotiating with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority for service dubbed “the Flyer,” both parties confirmed Monday. The service would be between the Highlands’ base and the parking area at Brush Creek Road’s intersection with Highway 82, formerly known as the Intercept Lot.
“It looks like the Flyer will operate only on weekends throughout the ski season,” RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said.
Negotiations haven’t been finalized yet, he said, and there was some consideration of Friday service, as well.
Shuttles would run every 20 minutes at peak times on weekend days with reduced service during mid-day, Blankenship said.
Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications, said the additional service would improve the experience of traveling to and from Highlands.
Last winter, the combination of numerous weekend powder days and new business from the Ikon Pass produced some mammoth crowds at Aspen Highlands. The parking lot filled early, forcing motorists to turn around, travel down Maroon Creek Road and seek alternatives. The parking at Buttermilk for the shuttle to Highlands also was occasionally filled.
The service from the Brush Creek lot will provide an option for local skiers traveling from downvalley and visitors from Denver with the Ikon Pass.
“It will take some of the load off the Buttermilk to Highlands shuttle,” Hanle said.
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan told Aspen City Council earlier this year that Skico was exploring additional bus service for Highlands.
Blankenship said the parties are working on message boards along Highway 82 that will alert motorists when the lots are full at Highlands. It is uncertain if they will be in place this winter. Regardless, Skico and RFTA will promote the Brush Creek shuttle to Highlands, he said.
Skico has contracted with RFTA and its predecessor for skier shuttles for about 35 years. A new contract was signed prior to last ski season for three years with an automatic renewal for three years unless a party opts out.
RFTA officials said at the time the contract was signed in September that it would provide about $17.79 million in revenue for RFTA over the six-ski-season term. The addition of the Flyer service will increase the overall cost for Skico.
Under terms of the deal, Skico pays for skier shuttles that run between Aspen and Aspen Highlands, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass, Aspen and Buttermilk, Aspen and Snowmass, and Snowmass and Buttermilk.
The service is not only free for Skico’s customers but anyone traveling between the destinations. Many employees use the free shuttles as expanded RFTA service.
In effect, Skico is paying nearly $3 million per winter to ease traffic congestion and parking shortages.
“The ski company, to its credit, has recognized the need to provide this service,” Blankenship said. “It’s been a great partnership. It’s been good for RFTA; it’s been for the ski company; it’s been good for the community,” Blankenship said.
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.