Skiing made easier |

Skiing made easier

Aspen, CO Colorado

The Aspen Skiing Co. took heaps of abuse for its new season-pass pricing plan – some of it justified, much of it overheated – but one element of the new passes was overlooked in that debate. Focused on dollars and cents at the time, skiers weren’t really thinking about the ease and convenience of the new passes and automatic turnstile gates at each of the Skico’s mountains.

For those who haven’t gotten out on the hill yet, the Skico has installed 41 automated gates in 16 locations on its four local mountains. The gates, which are installed only at lifts where skiers first enter the ski area, will electronically read your lift pass and let you through, even if the pass is hidden beneath three layers of clothing.

We would argue that the simplicity of the new system is an added value worth recognizing. How much value depends on the individual, of course, but thus far in this young 2009-10 season, the automated gates have performed well, and we’ve been able to get on the mountain more simply and quickly.

Yes, this automation likely shrunk the Skico payroll, so it’s not a pure customer-service move. But anything that simplifies the act of getting onto the mountain is, in the end, a good thing.

There are bound to be glitches with any new system, and this one is no different. We’ve already seen tourists waving their passes around while waiting for the scanners to read their pass, and people’s poles and skis seem to get tangled in the turnstiles from time to time. But eventually locals and tourists alike will grow accustomed to the new system, and we’re guessing the electronic gates will become as second-nature as bar-code scanners at the grocery store.

So, back to the matter of pricing. Numerous locals complained mightily about the elimination of the two-day and Highlands-Buttermilk passes, and other changes, including the price increase on the Classic Pass. Many felt manipulated into buying the most expensive Premier Pass, even though Skico dropped the price by $200.

These things still rankle – you can hear it on the chairlift and at the bar.

We know it won’t be any consolation to a two-day-per-week skier who was forced to pay more money per day to ski this season, but the pass that now rests safely in the interior pocket of your parka is certainly worth a little more than the pass that used to dangle from a flimsy plastic loop as you waited in line for the kid with the scanner gun.

As far as we can tell, the overall experience on our four local mountains just got a little better. And we’re glad.

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