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‘Personal responsibility’ was key to successful Snowmass season

Snowmass mountain manager Susan Cross considers unique winter

Snowmass General Manager Susan Cross stands on Fanny Hill overlooking Snowmass Base Village during off season on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

Even before the 2020-21 ski season began, Snowmass General Manager Susan Cross emphasized personal responsibility as the key to a successful pandemic-era winter.

Yes, there would be staffers enforcing mask compliance. Yes, there would be capacity limits indoors and spacing rules on the lifts. And yes, there would be signage reminding people to keep their distance and keep their faces covered. But there’s a point at which masking up and staying self-contained had to fall on the thousands of people who hit the slopes this winter.

“You have to take responsibility for yourselves at some point,” Cross said in a phone interview May 3. “We couldn’t control everything. … If you made a decision to come to ski, we could only do so much to keep you safe and the rest of the responsibility fell on your shoulders.”



It would take a group effort to “get open and stay open” this season — personal responsibility in service of the greater good. And it worked: Snowmass even extended the season with a bonus week of skiing to wrap up what Cross considers a “very successful” ski season.

“To think, at the beginning, (we didn’t know) what was going to happen,” she said. “Then 152 days later, having the ski season completely behind us was pretty amazing,”




For the most part, guests at Snowmass embraced the mantra of personal responsibility. But not everyone took it in stride, Cross said.

“Some folks didn’t necessarily see it that way. (They thought) we were supposed to protect them beginning to end. … They felt like we were responsible for them,” Cross said.

Mask enforcement was the biggest challenge of the season, Cross said. Some guests were quick to point out the unmasked “one-offs” who slipped under the radar in lift lines, she said.

“We’re standing here for seven hours a day telling people to put masks on, and somebody might get past us and that’s the one time that somebody was ready to pounce on us to let us know we were failing,” Cross said. “And that’s when I reminded myself of all the people that were doing things well so that definitely outnumbered those instances.”

Skiers make their way down Snowmass Resort on a cloudy day on Monday, March 8, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/Snowmass Sun)

Ensuring everyone on the Snowmass team was on the same page was a challenge, too, according to Cross; despite an “all in this together” mindset, not everyone was always compliant on the mask-wearing front.

“That was kind of disheartening to the staff, to know that you had to remind your fellow coworker to put their mask on properly as well,” she said. “If we’re going to do this again, we all need to be united as a team and one for all and all for one, and do it the same way each day.”

Cross took this season “one day at a time” and counted successes by the same day-by-day metric, she said. A 152-day run goes by fast when you look at it like that — especially so once the second half of the season rolls around. (Consistent snowfall in February was a “game-changer” that kicked off with a 20-inch powder day at the beginning of the month, Cross said.)

People wear masks while walking into Snowmass Village Mall on Monday, August 10, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Some employees may disagree on just how quickly the time passes though, she joked: “When it ended, I was just telling my staff, ‘Come on guys, was 152 days really that bad? It was wonderful.’ I think if it were an in-person meeting they probably would have thrown their pens at me, but we were on Zoom so they couldn’t do anything.”

Cross said she feels “blessed” that she was able to ski nearly every day and stay healthy — even avoiding the cold she said she typically gets every year.

“It was fun to be able to be out there and get fresh air, still doing what you love to do and maybe leaving some of the issues with the whole COVID thing behind,” Cross said.

Now, with offseason already flying by and summer around the corner, “Next season will be here before we know it.”

kwilliams@aspentimes.com


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