Skico expects to put lids on older kids, too | AspenTimes.com

Skico expects to put lids on older kids, too

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Skiing Co. expects next winter to require all children age 12 and under to wear helmets in ski school. On Wednesday it announced all kids 6 and under must wear helmets in ski school for the rest of this season.

“I think it is very likely we will go to 12 and under next year,” said Mike Kaplan, vice president of mountain operations. He noted that the company received plenty of positive feedback Thursday from its guests, employees and others in the ski industry about Wednesday’s announcement.

And a decision by the Skico about helmets for all children under 12 in ski school could come as early as next week.”I’d like see how things go through this weekend,” Kaplan said.

Starting Saturday, the Skico’s new mandatory helmet rule for kids 6 and under will be enforced. Ski school staff is already scrambling to meet that deadline, Kaplan said, and it would be much harder to make sure there were enough helmets on hand for everyone 12 and under by Saturday.

On a peak season day, the Skico can see up to 1,000 kids 12 and under in ski school lessons across the four mountains, in addition to 400 kids under age 6 in classes.

“For kids 6 and under we have check-in areas for all those programs,” Kaplan aid. “So those programs are run out of physical locations that have storage facilities and rental facilities.”

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All of which makes it easier to gets helmets on lots of little heads.

But even when the Skico does have plenty of rental helmets on hand for kids ages 6 through 12, it may not be so easy to get them on kids who are 11 or 12.

“At that age, they are thinking like teenagers,” said Eric Brendlinger, the youth program coordinator for the city of Glenwood Springs. “Anything you tell them to do is a hard sell, especially if it is coming down from above and not from their peers.”

Brendlinger, however, thinks the Skico’s posture on helmets makes sense.

“I think it is inevitable and I think it is smart,” he said. “I think every kid in that arena should be wearing a helmet.”

Kaplan conceded that forcing older children to wear helmets in ski school could cause some to opt out of taking lessons.

“We might lose a little business,” Kaplan said. “But if we lose a little by doing the right thing for our guests, it is still the right thing to do.”

And if the Skico does decide to go with an expanded helmet rule, it will raise a larger enforcement issue, especially as the onus will be on the Skico to make sure the lids stay on the kids.

“Once we say it, we have to enforce,” Kaplan said. “And by requiring it, it makes it clear for all of our employees.”

A slight loophole in the 6-and-under rule has already cropped up, though, as Kaplan said that on warm days little tykes inside the “magic carpet” corral will be allowed to take their helmets off so they don’t get too hot.

In terms of the pending decision, Kaplan said he has been getting feedback from ski school staff and an employee advisory committee and also discussing the possibility with senior managers and executives.

“It’s been influenced by a lot of people in the company,” Kaplan said.