City warms up to Skico ban party | AspenTimes.com
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City warms up to Skico ban party

Allyn Harvey

The latest battle between party animals and party poopers is going to the animals.

The Aspen City Council hinted yesterday that it is willing to accommodate the Aspen Skiing Co.’s plans for a two-week-long spring bash that will bring live music, dancing and college students to the normally sedate base area at Aspen Mountain.

“It’s not a 13-day rock concert,” Skico marketer Debbie Moore assured the City Council at its noon work session. “It’s a 13-day celebration of skiing and snowboarding.”

But people living at the bottom of Little Nell weren’t buying that line, and they showed up in force in an attempt to rain on the Skico’s parade.

“We support the special events that last a few days, but this is certainly a different ball of wax,” said Jack Crawford, who owns a condominium near The Tippler bar.

He pointed out that there will be events running for 10 hours a day on some days, culminating with a three-hour dance party. Crawford and a few other residents also raised concerns about noise, parking, sanitation and security.

“To think that young revelers are going to be drinking for three hours in the afternoon and get by with one toilet under the gondola plaza is absurd,” Crawford said.

The bash, officially dubbed 180 Spring Jam Aspen, is being promoted at colleges around the state with enticements such as $29-per-day lift tickets and lodging as low as $65 per night. Moore said about 45 local lodges and inns were participating by offering discounts.

The games begin on Saturday, March 31, with the second Wild Dash – a race that involves young, mostly male athletes running, skiing and jumping around Aspen Mountain in a mad dash for several thousand dollars in prize money.

March 31 was picked as the kickoff date because it’s the last day of the snowboarding ban on Aspen Mountain. The setup will include a demo village, so Aspen Mountain Club members and anyone else who is interested can rent snowboards; sumo wrestling challenges (the company has even rented sumo wrestling outfits); scavenger hunts; jump and freestyle contests and races.

The “nonstop music,” as the company’s promotional brochure calls it, will begin at 3 p.m. and stop at 6 p.m. A number of live bands playing mostly hip-hop and funk have been lined up.

Moore said the Skico would prefer to have live bands on a stage located between the gondola and the Tippler (located on the west side of the gondola) March 31 through April 5 and April 9-15. But it’s willing to limit live music to six days, with a DJ playing dance music from the same stage on seven days.

“We do feel that there has to be music for 13 days, but it doesn’t have to be offensive to the town and its guests. They’re our guests, too,” Moore said.

The festivities will move out to Snowmass between April 4 and April 6.

“We’re not looking to create Woodstock at the base of Aspen Mountain,” said Killeen Brettman, the company’s vice president for event marketing. “But we are trying to bring back vitality to that area.”

One of the most common criticisms of Aspen has been the subdued, some say nonexistent, aprs-ski culture.

The proposal was strongly supported by a few in the audience, including representatives from Aspen Central Reservations and Bug Productions, the firm bringing in all the bands.

“Aspen Central Reservations is totally supportive of this event,” said the representative from the town’s largest reservation agency. “It’s key if small and medium lodges are going to make their numbers in April. We’re more than willing to help mitigate in any way we can.”

The proposal was received fairly well by the City Council, as well. The only council member to outright object to outdoor music was Jim Markalunas, who said he’d ban outdoor amplifiers if he had his druthers.

“It’s OK for you guys to have irrational exuberance about this thing, but I think it needs to be restrained exuberance,” Markalunas said. “It shouldn’t infringe on the neighbors’ peace and tranquility.”

The other council members at Monday’s work session weren’t willing to back Markalunas’ plan, but they were worried about the noise nevertheless.

Mayor Rachel Richards took up a suggestion by Crawford. She asked the Skico marketers to look at moving at least some of the music over to the deck at Ajax Tavern or in the courtyard at the Little Nell Hotel, giving the neighbors on the other side of the gondola a break.

“In general, I’m supportive of this event. I think back to the old Little Nell and remember that there used to be a lot going on,” Richards said. “I think we’ve gotten a little too regimented and a little too stodgy for our own good as a resort.”

She also liked the price. “It’s nice to see an event for locals that doesn’t cost $150 for a ticket – they can mingle with the visitors.”

Councilman Tom McCabe’s objections to the overly loud events were more practical.

“I never liked it when the music was so loud that I couldn’t do anything but shout at Betty Boop standing next to me. Maybe I would have gotten lucky a little more often if it hadn’t been that way,” he said.

The council also asked the Skico to come up with security and parking plans before any permits are issued, even though it doesn’t actually have to sign off on any of the three permits that are required.

The company needs a temporary use permit from the community development department, which is authorized to issue a seven-day permit and a seven-day extension. It needs a noise ordinance variance from the environmental health department in order for the bands to play outdoors.

And it needs a special event permit from the city manager’s office so that the revelers can quaff an ice-cold beer near the stage.

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