Skico unveils more plans for Snowmass
The Aspen Times
Aspen Skiing Co. is revising a master plan for its on-mountain operations on Snowmass to include new activities such as an alpine coaster, zip lines and ropes courses for its expanding summer lineup.
The Snowmass Village Town Council learned the company was considering the activities in November, and Skico officials announced at a meeting Monday that they had received comments from the U.S. Forest Service on the first draft of a master plan for the ski area. The plan now encompasses summer and winter operations, and after it earns final approval from the Forest Service, Skico will apply for a land-use review with the town of Snowmass Village.
“What that master plan does is it really lays out everything we want to do on the hill in the next 15 years,” said Steve Sewell, Snowmass mountain manager.
The plan will help Skico “get some of these ambitious summer programs off the ground,” he added.
Gravity Logic, the designer of Snowmass’ mountain-biking network, is returning this summer to map out four new trails, the council also learned. By having the company out earlier in the season this year, Skico hopes to speed up the Forest Service approval process and break ground on the trails next summer, Sewell said.
“Strategy being (that) we want to have something new to offer every two years for our riders,” he said.
The company also plans to complete rebuilding efforts this summer that began last year on the Vapor Trail. The construction will be on new terrain, so the trail will remain open to mountain bikers, Sewell said. Easy Rider also was rebuilt last year and renamed Viking Trail, and Valhalla’s features have been shuffled around.
New this summer on Elk Camp are farm-to-table dinners benefiting the Thompson Divide Coalition and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The dinners replace Valhalla Nights, Friday-night programming that Skico has offered the past two summers. They are scheduled for Tuesday nights in August.
Summer activities officially start June 20, when the Elk Camp Gondola starts daily operation.
Winter improvements include the replacement of the High Alpine chairlift, which the Forest Service has approved and the company plans to complete this summer. Sewell told the council that the company hopes to add a lane to its tubing arena, which had a successful first season this year.
Additionally, an interior remodel of Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant is billed for next summer. Skico has worked closely with owners Gwyn Knowlton and George Gordon on the design, led by architect Gus Gustafson, Sewell said. The footprint of the building will remain the same, but the interior will be completely remodeled, the roofline will see some alterations and some windows will be added.
Skier days on Snowmass were down about 3 percent this season, although visits by destination skiers were up.
“We felt that was due to, quite frankly, the static weather and passholders and locals not coming out during those dry periods,” Sewell said. Snowmass’ total snowfall for the season was about 20 percent below its average, Skico CEO Mike Kaplan said.
Skico surveys customers after their visits and calculates what’s called a “net promoter score,” which shows how satisfied guests are with their stay and whether they would recommend Aspen/Snowmass to others. Skico’s four resorts rank above all others in its competitive set of Rocky Mountain ski resorts, but Snowmass’ score dropped a few points from last year, according to data presented by Kaplan.
“Snowmass is down a little bit, and we’d like to see that number come up. … I do honestly believe that part of that is we’ve got to complete the bottom of the mountain,” Kaplan said, adding that the council should do whatever it can to facilitate the ongoing review of amended plans to Base Village in time for next construction season.
“Time is ticking away again,” he said.
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.