Skico execs contemplate Aspen’s future |

Skico execs contemplate Aspen’s future

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
Skico Chief Operating Officer David Perry talks to attendees at Thursday's ACRA event, co-hosted by Skico, on Aspen Mountain.
Lauren Glendenning/The Aspen Times |

Aspen Skiing Co. executives are adjusting the company’s line as they look ahead to the future, recognizing that the next generation of their business — millennials — are actually the here and now.

Skico CEO Mike Kaplan used the skiing analogy as he spoke about the company’s evolution Thursday at an afternoon event with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association on the top of Aspen Mountain. The theme that emerged as Kaplan and other top executives spoke was clear: Skico wants to capture business from millennials, adults ages 18 to 34, who now make up a higher percentage of the U.S. population than baby boomers.

“Living is a lot like skiing,” Kaplan said. “It’s about looking ahead and anticipating and adjusting your line based on what you’re seeing. I think we as a community can collectively do that much better. The onus is on us to do it much, much better.”

Skico is making upgrades across its mountains, but Kaplan and Chief Operating Officer David Perry called upon the room of more than 200 attendees to make collective upgrades as a community. With a new website launching next week, a new national marketing campaign, a plan for reinventing summer operations at Snowmass and upgrades such as the Cloud 9 renovation, a new High Alpine chairlift and more upgrades in the pipeline, Skico touted its role in living up to the Aspen Idea and encouraged the Aspen business community to do the same.

“I’m imploring you to stop, reflect and engage at whatever level … and be part of a movement to solve problems and move forward and make sure we make progress and stay true to our roots while embracing our past,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan threw in some not-so-subtle political remarks, referencing ballot questions this fall for “the opportunity to vote on education funding” as well as the Base2 Lodge question.

“It’s not about one developer and one hotel. I would submit that it’s really about who we are as a community and do we want to embrace the ski-town infrastructure that’s going to make us relevant to this next generation in this future or not?” Kaplan said. “Or do we want to continue or head down a path that’s more focused on an ever-exclusive, ever-sort-of-shrinking, more and more exclusive niche of the market?”

The community and Skico would be fine either way, he quipped, but that might not be enough.

“I’m not convinced the Aspen Idea will be fine either way,” he said.

And based on what millennials want, the result likely won’t be “fine either way.” Graham Button, founding principal of business consulting firm Bravo Echo, gave a presentation about millennials and the need for brands across all industries to pay attention to them.

If customers don’t want what you’re selling, you won’t last long in business, he said.

Millennials will outspend baby boomers on hotel rooms in just a couple of years, he said. And with a bit more stereotyping — millennials are tech-savvy, like good deals, need to feel connected to local culture and love being “alone together” — Button described how to meet the generation’s needs.

“They want to be courted by brands. They want to be understood. They want to feel they’re being welcomed in because they want to be part of a community — they want to be part of an experience,” he said.

So what is it millennials actually want? Button said the answer is simple: They want “everything.”

“There’s a new customer out there, and they need what you’ve got in a new way. They don’t need something different,” he said. “I think that with millennials, they want mind, body, spirit — that’s what ‘everything’ means. They want it all.”