Phones ringing off hook for Skico’s ticket deals |

Phones ringing off hook for Skico’s ticket deals

If ever the cliche “the phone’s been ringing off the hook” truly applied, it has been at the Aspen Skiing Co. the last week or so.

The Skico’s discounted, multiticket promotion has been so successful that the company’s switchboard has been overwhelmed. Employees were also sent a memo from Chief Operating Officer John Norton this week to minimize their time on the phones to keep lines free for callers making advance purchases.

“We sold 50,000 daily tickets through early November and, because of high phone volumes, have quit counting,” said Norton. “We may have doubled that number by now.”

The number of phone calls increased throughout November and soared since Thanksgiving Day as the Dec. 1 purchase deadline neared.

“The phone’s ringing off the hook because people are waiting until the last minute,” said Norton.

The phones are also ringing off the hook because people perceive a bargain. The program makes four-, five- and six-day tickets available at reduced prices.

The best deal – and the one receiving the greatest scrutiny from media and customers – is a six-day ticket that reduces the per day price to $39.

When Skico executives announced the program last summer, they said it would be a good gauge of whether price really matters to Aspen customers. They are apparently receiving the answer.

Norton said the Dec. 1 deadline wouldn’t be extended. However, people who call Dec. 2 and say they couldn’t get through will be able to place an order, he said.

The Skico set up a dedicated toll-free number for customers to call as part of the promotion. Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello said she didn’t know how many lines were devoted to that toll-free number, but they were eventually swamped.

Overflow calls are bounced to the main switchboard, which already handles a fair share of inquiries. As a result, calls to the switchboard often went unanswered recently. For example, a reporter was able to get only one of eight calls through on Monday.

The flood of calls has also forced the Skico to place extra staff in the advance sales office at the Two Creeks building in Snowmass. Even executives such as Skico vice president of operations Mike Kaplan spent a few hours helping in the sales office last weekend due to a shortage of bodies.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” said Kaplan, referring to the flood of calls.

Abello described the situation as “all hands on deck.” She, too, helped with the answering of phones, processing of orders, printing and mailing of tickets.

The Skico has tried to guide as much customer traffic to the Internet as possible. Norton estimated about 20 percent of purchases were through the Skico’s Web site while almost all the rest were via telephone. Only a handful of purchases were completed by regular mail.

Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell said Monday he was elated with the response to the program. However, it may be short-lived.

“Whether that’s something we’re going to do next year or not, after the millennium passes, is something we will have to reassess,” he said.

Jim Crown, managing partner for the family that owns the Skico, also said this week that the owners are “very excited about the initiative.”

The discounted tickets were both a way for the company to show it wasn’t participating in price-gouging so prevalent for the New Millennium celebrations and a way to secure business after a poor season in 1998-99, he said.

“We did want to make a statement,” Crown said.

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