Skico drops `Ajax’ name |

Skico drops `Ajax’ name

Aspen Mountain’s identity crisis is over.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has quietly switched back to calling its flagship ski area “Aspen Mountain” rather than “Ajax.”

Last year at this time, the company just as quietly started using the moniker Ajax.

“I think our decision has unofficially been made that we’re going back,” said Skico communications director Rose Abello.

Her department has started using Aspen Mountain exclusively on press releases. For the last year, they had used Ajax with Aspen Mountain in parentheses. Abello also quit using “Ajax” in references to the media about Aspen Mountain.

The Skico adopted “Ajax” in marketing materials last season in an attempt to avoid confusion that the snowboarding ban applied to all four ski areas.

The widespread perception was that “Aspen” didn’t allow snowboarding when in reality only “Aspen Mountain” prohibited riders, Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton explained last year when the Ajax name was adopted.

The Skico figured that if it referred to Aspen Mountain as Ajax and explained that only Ajax banned boards, snowboarders would consider coming here for vacation.

The Ajax experiment didn’t seem to work. For example, Kevin Byford, Skico director of snowboarding, said that when he visits other resorts people always ask him why Aspen has a director of snowboarding if it doesn’t allow snowboarding. Those are people from Colorado, he noted, so it is little wonder people elsewhere in the country are confused.

Abello wasn’t willing to label the experiment a failure. “I don’t think it was there long enough,” she said. “I don’t think a season is long enough to find out if it was effective.”

But the whole confusing saga now seems moot. The Skico has decided it will permanently drop the snowboarding ban on Aspen Mountain April 1.

“We really wanted to separate the concept of Aspen and snowboarding. That was the primary rationale for going to Ajax,” Abello said. “That doesn’t exist any more so the primary rationale is gone.”

The company will make an official decision sometime within the next month, when copy for its brochures, posters and various other marketing pieces for the 2001-02 season must go to the printers.

Realistically, Abello said, people in the company will likely use both references to the Aspen ski area, just as many locals do – easily slipping between Aspen Mountain and Ajax.

The Ajax nickname has been used at least since the 1946-47 season, according to old-timers.

Nevertheless, the company’s regular use of Ajax irritated some purists, including longtime former company president DRC Brown.

There is a precedent for the Skico retreating on a name change. The Skico changed its references to Buttermilk for the 1993-94 season because officials thought the name was too sissy. They started calling it Tiehack, which refers to the east side of the ski area.

By March 1995 the Skico decided it made a PR blunder and revived Buttermilk.

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