Snowboarding survey won’t end the debate |

Snowboarding survey won’t end the debate

Aspen Times Staff Report

Skiers and riders on local slopes will soon be surveyed about the Aspen Mountain snowboarding ban, but they will never find out the results.

Regardless of whether the status quo is overwhelmingly supported or customers demand the ban be lifted, the company ownership has made it clear the survey results are for internal use only, said Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell.

“They have decided it’s for the company and ownership’s private use for a strategic business decision,” said O’Donnell. “They’re saying right from the get-go that these results won’t be shared.

“That’s one of the privileges of being a private company,” O’Donnell added. “We’re not a public utility.”

Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton stressed that the Skico keeps a lot of its information private – from profits to direct-mailing lists – often for competitive reasons. Keeping the results of the snowboarding survey under wraps doesn’t set a precedent, he said.

O’Donnell directed his staff in December to prepare a survey with unbiased questions so he would have current data on opinions about the snowboarding ban on Aspen Mountain. He ordered the survey after a citizens group called Free the Snow launched a campaign to get bans lifted at Aspen Mountain, Alta and Taos.

The surveying of about 800 skiers and riders will be conducted within the next seven to 10 days, according to Bobbie Burkley, Skico director of marketing.

Customers will be selected at random at all four local ski areas. The Skico will try to get a sample that fairly represents the skier and rider populations as well as the mix of locals and guests, Burkley said.

The surveys will be conducted by Skico employees throughout the remainder of the season. The survey, which will take about six or seven minutes to fill out, will be conducted on chairlifts or other areas of the mountains.

The Skico will conduct one of its annual marketing surveys separately but at the same time, Burkley noted.

Much of the information on the snowboarding survey will be “routine, boiler-plate stuff,” said Norton, who also heads the company’s marketing effort.

But along with the usual demographic-type stuff, skiers and riders will be asked three questions that center on the ban. The first question will explain the current status, with Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk open to snowboarding and Aspen Mountain closed. Respondents will be asked for comments on that arrangement.

Second, said Norton, will be a question along the lines of: “If snowboarding was allowed at Aspen Mountain, would that change your skiing or riding habits?”

Third, respondents will be asked if the ban affects their group’s time on the slopes. For example, the Skico wants to know if it splits families.

The survey won’t include the most direct question: “Should the Aspen Mountain snowboarding ban be lifted or continued?”

Free the Snow founder Matt Kreitman applauded the Skico’s effort to conduct a survey with questions that appear neutral. He noted that the Skico has assumed that the ban is a good business decision, but hasn’t had data to support that assumption.

“So it’s a real shame that they’re not going to share that information,” Kreitman said. “Everybody would like to know.”

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