No reservations needed to ski this holiday season, Skico says
Passholders can head straight to the slopes — at least for now
“No” news really is good news for Aspen-Snowmass passholders this week: Aspen Skiing Co. won’t implement a reservation system for the holiday season, the company announced over the weekend.
After on-again, off-again hints from resort officials that a reservation system could go into effect to mitigate crowding this season, skiers and snowboarders can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they’ll be free — for now, anyway — to hop on the lift any day their pass or pre-purchased ticket is valid throughout the peak holiday weeks without going online to select a date first.
“We’ve been going back and forth on it,” Jeff Hanle, Skico’s vice president of communications, said Sunday. “We wanted to get through the season without it, but we wanted to be prepared if we needed it.”
Friday’s announcement isn’t a guarantee of a reservation-free season, he noted; the system is still waiting in the wings in the event of a spike in demand down the road.
IKON passholders, who get five or seven days at Aspen Snowmass depending on the pass they purchased, will still need to book in advance to use their allotted days; that policy has been in effect all season.
“It’s going to be a moving target,” Hanle said. But “we’re talking about what we can see now,” he said — and at the moment, that forecast is looking good for a reservation-free future.
Passholders can mostly thank Mother Nature for that, Hanle said. A “beneficial, well-timed” weekend storm brought much-needed snowfall to the sun-worn mountains, allowing Skico to open more terrain at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass and prepare for the official opening of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk on Friday.
Aspen Mountain’s base more than tripled with its 16 inches of snowfall this weekend; all eight lifts are spinning there, with 399 acres open.
Snowmass jumped from around 165 acres of mostly man-made snow to more than 840 acres of light powder thanks to 19 inches of snowfall there. Snowmass opened the Big Burn, High Alpine and Alpine Springs chairlifts for the first time this season; the mountain now has a 35-inch base.
Aspen Highlands, which had to postpone its opening from Saturday to this Friday due to a lack of snow scored a foot and a half of snow to bolster its base, now totaling 21 inches. The storm also brought 8 inches of snow to the parched slopes of Buttermilk, where only the Panda Peak lift is open as a beginner learning area; Buttermilk officially opens alongside Highlands on Friday.
The National Weather Service forecasts another hearty dusting of snow this week, with as many as 4 inches possible by Monday night. Plus, Hanle said, it’s likely that the demand won’t be as high this year for holiday skiing, which also helps make the case for a reservation-free season.
Some ski passes — like the weekday and seven-day passes available only to Roaring Fork Valley residents — have blackout dates that apply during the last week of December.
Skico is working out new incentives for extension days on Valley passes that could offer a “higher discount on a lower price” for weekday and seven-day passholders who want to bolster their allotted days with single-day tickets, Hanle said.
That extra discount would apply after the holiday season to encourage valley residents to ski at off-peak times. Currently, Valley passholders get at least 50% off the going day rate for extension days. The goal is to “reward people in January,” not penalize them for skiing in December, Hanle said.
Plus, lodging bookings in Aspen this season are down from years past, likely because fewer people are traveling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some hotels also saw deluge of cancellations last week after Pitkin County announced a traveler affidavit program, which starts Monday. It requires most overnight visitors to sign an online affidavit stating they tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of traveling and that they were symptom-free for 10 days prior to their visit.
Even the chaotic energy typically associated with Aspen’s busy-season crowds has been lacking, too. During a weekend check-in from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Ryan Voss reported another quiet weekend in a long string of quiet weekends, with mostly weather-related calls and parking complaints.
“Nothing criminal except bad driving,” Voss said.
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The steep Jail Trail that leads into downtown Aspen is getting a better grade to address safety concerns and make it easier for people to use.