End of Ajax riding ban pulls in visitors, national media | AspenTimes.com

End of Ajax riding ban pulls in visitors, national media

Spring Jam is proving popular with visitors and national media despite its lukewarm local reception.

The end of one era and opening of another at Aspen Mountain is expected to draw at least 90 journalists from publications ranging from The New York Times to Cond Nast Traveler, according to Aspen Skiing Co. Chief Operating Officer John Norton.

In addition, Skico officials handed out complimentary lift tickets like drunken sailors earlier this month at the Snowsport Industry of America ski show in Las Vegas. The show attracts manufacturers of virtually every product, from skis and snowboards to parkas and hand warmers. The show also attracts more than 3,000 buyers from retail stores and ski shops.

The free lift tickets and lodging accommodations went to some of the most influential people in the snowboard industry, from board manufacturers to top riders, according to Kevin Byford, Skico director of snowboarding.

In addition, virtually every ski and snowboard shop represented at the show was personally contacted about Aspen’s change and given a poster to hang in their stores.

“We’ve gone after the influencers in the industry,” said Byford. “The word is out about Aspen and it wasn’t before.”

The Skico is heavily promoting Spring Jam for dual purposes – first, to spur business at a usually “soft” time of the season and, second, to gear up an extensive, multiyear marketing effort to get the word out that Aspen embraces riding.

To attract people here for the celebration, the Skico is offering $29 lift tickets. Today is the last day people can purchase those discounted lift tickets via the Internet and advance purchase telephone line. Tickets must be purchased for two or more days to get the $29 deal.

Single-day tickets for $29 will continue to be sold at seven Christy Sports locations in the Front Range at least through March.

Single-day tickets purchased at the window topped out at $65 this season, so the Spring Jam deals represent a substantial savings.

In addition, the company best known for having the highest single-day tickets in the country is also offering $69 passes good for all of April to students.

“Anybody with a valid student ID can go to the ticket window and buy a $69 pass or a $29 single-day ticket,” said Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello.

The student deals and adult $29 tickets are being targeted to Colorado’s Front Range residents.

Are the deals working? Abello said the Skico’s telephone call volume and Web site orders have skyrocketed in the last few days, as the deadline loomed on some of the discounts.

More than 40 lodging properties, from budget to luxury hotels, are also offering April discounts for as little as $65 per night for rooms.

Norton said he believes Spring Jam will prove successful in bringing visitors to town.

The latest report from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, taken on March 16, shows that current reservations will produce an occupancy in town of 54 percent for the first week of April. That already matches the actual rate for the same week last season, and this year’s numbers are expected to improve.

Spring Jam will kick off with events on Saturday, March 31, and Sunday, April 1.

On Saturday, the Wild Dash for Cash race, where anything goes, will be held at 11 a.m. with the course from the Sundeck to Gwyn’s Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. A barbecue will follow at Gwyn’s.

The KickAspen Big Air contest will feature top freestyle snowboarders and skiers performing kick-ass aerial jumps off a ramp on Little Nell. Prize money is $13,000, with $5,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third in both the snowboarding and skiing divisions.

KickAspen will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m., with live music and a party following on the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza until 6 p.m.

On Sunday, a festival with demonstration booths for ski and snowboard equipment will be set up on the gondola plaza. Opening ceremonies for the opening of Aspen Mountain to riders will be held around 9 a.m.

There will be a barbecue at Bonnie’s from noon to 2 p.m. and a party at the gondola plaza from 3 to 6 p.m.

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