Skico meets with Aspen council, says more lodging needed | AspenTimes.com

Skico meets with Aspen council, says more lodging needed

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. officials presented an update on current projects and future plans Tuesday during an hour-long meeting with the Aspen City Council.

Mike Kaplan, president and CEO; David Perry, senior vice president; and Christian Knapp, vice president of marketing, provided information.

Kaplan opened the meeting by speaking generally about Aspen’s “vision” for a resort destination.

He said other Colorado ski resort towns that compete with Aspen and Skico have been adding to their “hot bed base” during the economic downturn – meaning they’ve been building more timeshares and lodging facilities – while Aspen’s hotel and timeshare bed count has remained relatively flat.

“The bulk of our message here today is, we think we’re working really, really well together … saying, ‘Yeah, times are tough, how can we build on this sustainable resort economy concept,’ but at the same time there are some gaps,” Kaplan said. “Over the last several years, we haven’t moved the ball forward, in terms of the hot bed base, and our needs there.”

Kaplan said the city of Steamboat Springs recently declared itself, “Bike Town USA,” a reference to its role as host city for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August and its infrastructure for biking enthusiasts. Aspen also was a host city for the event.

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“They have a broader vision and plan, and their stage of the bike race was part of it,” he said. “Whereas, I feel like we sort of said, ‘This is a great place to bike, of course we’re going to get the race. Let’s all pull together and we’re gonna pull off a great event.’

“We did that. But I think we have to ask ourselves is that a one-off, or is that a strategic vision we should be pursuing collaboratively and proactively,” Kaplan said. “I’m concerned that we’re not seeing the forest for the trees.”

The Skico CEO added that he “applauds” Mayor Mick Ireland for having combined business with pleasure during a summer trip to Europe, visiting resort destinations that have much in common with Aspen. That’s an example of the kind of ambassadorship that’s necessary to further the goals of the community, Kaplan suggested.

Perry spoke soon after, saying that early booking trends for the 2011-12 ski season give rise to optimism. He noted that the 2010-11 ski season trends were positive across the country, with a 0.6 percent increase in skier days. Meanwhile, Colorado saw a 2.6 percent increase, Perry said, citing research by the Mountain Travel Research Program.

However, a less-positive aspect of the statistics was the fact that Vail Resorts saw a 4 percent increase in skier days while Aspen/Snowmass experienced a 1.7 percent increase, Perry said.

Skico has undertaken several capital projects to boost its business in the near future, Perry said, pointing to the renovation of the Merry Go Round restaurant at Aspen Highlands, construction of a high-speed lift in the Tiehack area of Buttermilk and the building of a new restaurant (to be called Elk Camp) at Snowmass Ski Area to replace Cafe Suzanne.

Knapp, who recently joined the company, talked of new marketing strategies. He said the company would focus on more effective, but fewer, print advertising buys aimed at national magazines that serve the skier and snowboarder markets.

The idea, Knapp said, is to use the ads to “convert” readers into putting down money for an Aspen or Snowmass ski vacation, rather than to simply reinforce a brand that’s already strong. Skico’s advertising messages will tout Aspen as an “all-inclusive experience” with skiing at a special destination that’s not just seasonally active.

One of his print ads carries the message, “Before Aspen, Mountain was never Cosmopolitan.”

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