Skico has secret weapon to keep the peace on Ajax
There’s nothing like a bunch of pretty women in stretch pants to help keep the peace on the ski slopes.So when the snowboarding ban is permanently lifted on Aspen Mountain Sunday, expect pretty women to be out in abundance. The Aspen Skiing Co. has recruited snowboard instructors from its other ski areas to work in the mountain safety department on Ajax Sunday.The recruits, many of them women, will encourage goodwill among snowsliders of all types, according to Aspen Mountain ski and snowboard manager Tony Fry, who is helping prepare the mountain for its historic day.”The integration will be a lot easier than you think,” Fry said. “Will there be confrontation? Sure, there always is.”Skico officials aren’t really expecting bona fide trouble between riders, who may be exuberant over finally gaining access to the mountain, and dedicated Ajax skiers, many of whom will be reluctantly sharing the slopes.While Skico officials aren’t expecting bedlam Sunday, they are expecting a hectic time. “You’ll see an astronomical number of people there,” predicted Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell.He’s realistic enough to know that hotheads on both types of boards could spark a confrontation where none should really exist. And because of all the scrutiny that will be focused on that mountain that day, anything that happens could be blown out of proportion, said O’Donnell.When asked what his perfect scenario would be for April 1, O’Donnell said he would hope skiers and riders would take it upon themselves to get along since they now must coexist on Aspen Mountain.”This is not a test. It’s not going to go away,” said O’Donnell. “Since it’s a given, I’d like to see people try to integrate.”The snowboard riders being brought in to work in mountain safety won’t be policing the slopes as much as spreading goodwill, said Kevin Byford, Skico director of snowboarding.The mountain safety riders will be dressed in the distinctive yellow jackets of that department. They will offer friendly advice to riders on what “hot spots” to avoid, such as poor places to stop and rest and contact points where two trails merge or where a traverse pops out of the trees and onto a slope, according to Byford.The idea isn’t to be condescending, Fry stressed. The theory is that many riders probably aren’t familiar with Aspen Mountain’s terrain.The Skico is also recruiting riders from its ranks of ambassadors, volunteers who offer help, answer questions and pass out cookies, water and hot chocolate on the mountains.Meanwhile, the ski patrol has been working on conflict resolution skills, Byford said.Some ski patrol members from Snowmass will be working Ajax for a few days after the ban is lifted, said Aspen Mountain manager Steve Sewell.An ad hoc committee of Skico executives and employees has been planning how to make the transition go smoothly since the end of the snowboarding ban was announced in January. The group, which includes members on skis and snowboards, meets each Friday and takes a run down Aspen Mountain to seek and discuss potential problems.Other steps the Skico is taking for the lifting of the ban include:-Preparation of a tip sheet. One side will have the skier’s safety and responsibility code, the other will have riding tips for Aspen Mountain.-Large signs on lift towers will promote two points of the skier safety code – “The downhill skier has the right of way” and “Ski or ride in control.”Return to The Aspen Times or AspenAlive.com
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