Skico hopes for colorful setting when X Games, Gay Ski Week in town |

Skico hopes for colorful setting when X Games, Gay Ski Week in town

Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan addresses the group gathered for the Afternoon Blend hosted by Skico and Aspen Chamber Resort Association at Bumps at Buttermilk Ski Resort in Aspen on Monday, October 4, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Drag queens commentating about high-flying stunts over a rainbow-colored superpipe is a scenario Aspen Skiing Co. is envisioning for January when the Winter X Games and Gay Ski Week overlap.

With Gay Ski Week scheduled Jan. 16-22 and the Winter X Games Jan. 21-23, two of Aspen’s premier winter events will share the spotlight for two days and nights. The last overlap came in 2004.

Gay Ski Week is celebrating its 45th year in Aspen this winter; the Winter X Games has been held in Aspen since 2002.

“We thought, ‘What if we really brought two unexpected things together?’” Erin Sprague, Skico’s chief brand officer, said Monday during Skico and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s annual Afternoon Blend previewing the winter ahead.

Skico has partnered with both events over the years, providing the Buttermilk venue to ESPN, which produces the X Games, and playing host to Gay Ski Week’s Friday drag-skiing race on the Little Nell run at Aspen Mountain, for example.

Sprague showed the audience a mock version of a rainbow superpipe, the same place from where the likes of Aspen’s own Gretchen Bleiler, Alex Ferreira and Torin Yater-Wallace have dazzled spectators with medal-winning X Games performances over the years.

“This is one of our ideas,” she said. “I’m sure ESPN is going to be thrilled about this idea. But we really want to bring these two unexpected things together.”

Sprague also discussed the plan to have drag queens provide some commentary about the X Games as a fun departure from the heavy dose of extreme-sports jargon — think “alley-oop,” “vertical axis,” “corkscrew” — broadcasters regularly employ.

“We’re going to bring in a drag queen, and we’re going to have a drag queen narrate X Games, what’s happening, a live special,” she said. “We’re working closely with Gay Ski Week on this, and we’re really excited about it.”

Skico has a recent history of taking environmental, social and political positions. And a “warming future,” said Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan at the Afternoon Blend, is one reason the company is proposing the 153-acre expansion of Aspen Mountain into the Pandora’s terrain. The matter is scheduled to go to Pitkin County commissioners for final approval Oct. 13.

“To have a whole new pod of skiing that’s above 10,000 feet and north-facing, it’s necessary in today’s ski business,” he said. “And I think it’s critical to us, not only maintaining the competitive edge that Aspen Mountain and our four mountains have, but to really ensure this remains a vibrant ski town, a ski-centered town. And that’s really our agenda here, our only agenda here.”

Rebranding effort underway

Also underway at Skico, which will be celebrating the company’s 75th anniversary this season, is a rebranding effort that included the quiet launch of its redesigned website this week and the August debut of its ski-wear business inspired by employee uniforms with the new company logo. The company’s app will be updated in November, Sprague said.

Some 1,000 employees recently attended Skico’s inaugural brand camp emphasizing “this is who we are and what we believe,” Sprague said.

Skico also is repainting the exteriors of the buckets on the Aspen Mountain gondola, and also replacing their plexiglass windows. Buckets on the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass Ski Area are getting touch-ups showing the new logo, as well, according to Sprague.

The intent of the rebrand is to bring more cohesion and uniformity among the Skico properties.

“Doing a rebrand across a resort is a mighty task,” Sprague said. “Some of our assets have been updated, some are in process, so you can expect a little bit of a transition period.”

Season passes this year — in keeping with Skico’s tradition of exhibiting artwork on them — will highlight the bear-inspired work of Italian artist Paola Pivi.

Recognizing local workers

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association also announced Monday that it is dedicating this month of October to frontline and guest service workers working under pandemic conditions.

“Their job continues to be tough, and I just really want to recognize that,” said ACRA President and CEO Debbie Braun.

The chamber this week handed out gift cards to employees at Clark’s Market, and they’ll continue to recognize workers at other businesses this month.

“Throughout the month ACRA is surprising local frontline staff with gifts, offering public recognition throughout town, and hosting a grand prize giveaway,” said an ACRA announcement.

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