CEO: Reservation system likely for Aspen Skiing Co. pass holders this season
There’s a strong possibility Aspen Skiing Co. will introduce a reservation system this winter to better manage and separate the on-mountain crowds because of a surge in local COVID-19 cases, according to the company’s top executive.
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan hinted at a reservation system for season pass holders at the Pitkin County Board of Health’s virtual meeting Thursday. He provided more details at a subsequent community Zoom gathering held to inform residents about the implications of the county’s entrance Thursday into the high-risk Orange phase that will include added restrictions on businesses and social life.
The Red phase, which would mean a near shutdown of restaurants because they could only serve take-out or outdoor diners, is next for the county if public health trends hold over the next week or so.
“It’s not surprising that given what we are seeing, in terms of the amount of spread, it’s likely we’re going to have to implement a reservation system,” Kaplan said. “As a reminder, we wanted to avoid that, we’ve gone through a lot of our planning to avoid that, but given this rate of spread, we’re accelerating our work on that and in the coming weeks, you’re likely to see that happen.”
Kaplan did not have full details Thursday night on how signing up for the system would work.
“That reservations system would allow us to have more of a toggle on the significant percentage of people who show up on the hill — those season pass holders,” Kaplan said. “With ticket holders, it happens naturally now. And we will run out of tickets. We will stop selling in advance. And tickets will have to be dated specific. So that part of the volume we can control.
“It’s the season passes that just being unlimited are problematic, and that’s where we’ll have to implement a reservation system, assuming we stay on this track.”
For skiers and snowboarders who bought season passes, they will need to act fast if they’re no longer game this season and want a full refund. Friday is the deadline to get a 100% refund for this ski season if it is not interrupted or shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic. Kaplan addressed the unfortunate timing, but referred to an email alerting customers of the possibility earlier this week.
“I know that makes it difficult for a lot of you who have bought a pass and our deadline for a full-season pass refund is tomorrow (Friday) so we sent out that email … actually a couple of days ago, and (we are) re-enforcing it now,” he said. “Just be aware that you might be subject to a reservation system. It’s pretty likely.”
This is a path Skico wanted to avoid. The company took a different approach to its pass structures and prices this winter by raising the price of the unlimited Premier Pass by $250 to drive buyers to other pass options.
In a September Aspen Times article about how the company was preparing for a season rife with challenges because of operational restrictions spurred by the pandemic, Kaplan said the company had developed the capability reservation system in the event one would be needed.
“If we have to do it, if the (infection) numbers get to a level, in consultation with local public health officials, experts and regulators, and we have to reduce volume further, then that would be our strategy to roll out the reservation system,” Kaplan said in September.
Kaplan said he is optimistic there will be skiing on the local mountains this year. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area are scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
“If we are shut down for more than 10 days, then you will be eligible for a pro-rated refund. So, if we shut down for last 10% of the season — whatever that is, call it 12 days or 14 days — you would get a 10% refund,” Kaplan said. “If we shut down at the beginning of the season and are shut down all year, you’d get a 100% refund. Hopefully that’s not going to happen and the goal is to avoid that.”
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