Skico plans to lift board ban with great fanfare | AspenTimes.com
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Skico plans to lift board ban with great fanfare

When Aspen Mountain finally opens to snowboarding April 1, the Aspen Skiing Co. plans to throw one hell of a party in hopes of making up for the 20-year ban.

Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell said the company won’t be content to just quietly let the ban expire. It will do so with great fanfare.

“We’re going to have a party – I guarantee you that,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to have a huge turnout April 1.”

Skico officials have invited Jake Burton, founder and owner of Burton Snowboards, to attend the festivities, which are still in the planning stage. Burton hasn’t responded yet but he’s well aware of the Skico’s decision, according to a company spokesman.

Burton’s company sent out a press release Monday entitled, “Burton Snowboard’s campaign to free the snow continues in full force after successful `freeing’ of Aspen.”

In the prepared statement, Burton said, “Hey, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was overdue, but you have to respect a company that doesn’t let pride get in the way of a sound decision.”

The Skico’s decision was announced last Thursday, coincidentally as 300 of Burton’s best representatives from around the world were gathering in Stowe, Vt., to view next year’s product line.

Burton will continue supporting the efforts of the nonprofit Free the Snow campaign, aimed at ending bans on riding at Taos, N.M.; Deer Valley and Alta, Utah; and Mad River Glen, Vt.

Burton’s press release underscores how the Skico’s decision – regardless of whether you love it or hate it – has turned into a public relations coup, sort of like Coca Cola’s switch to a new formula.

For years, the company waged a losing battle to educate potential guests that three of its four mountains were open to snowboarding. Despite extensive marketing efforts to gain attention to riding at Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk, the snowboarding industry more or less snubbed the Skico because of the ban at Aspen Mountain, according to Skico officials.

“It was hard to get those influences – the photographers, the videographers, the top ones – to come here and get us into magazines,” said Kevin Byford, Skico’s director of snowboarding. Trying to attract coverage for riding at Snowmass just didn’t have the allure of the Aspen name, he explained.

Byford said Aspen will now be synonymous with riding rather than with the riding ban.

He expects all the major snowboarding publications to come to town for the lifting of the ban April 1.

Skico communications director Rose Abello said her department is considering trying to pull in media from across the country and internationally to celebrate the end of the skiing-only era on March 31 and opening of a new era April 1.

“I’m thinking of having the world’s biggest press tour here,” she said.


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