The end (of ski season) is near |

The end (of ski season) is near

Call it another sign that The End is near – the end of ski season, that is.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will soon lift its ban on snowboarding on Aspen Mountain. Riders will be allowed on Ajax for the last week of the season, April 12-18, according to Aspen Mountain Manager Rob Baxter.

Opening Ajax to snowboard riders has netted mixed results in past seasons. While most experiments have been low key, several participants in an ESPN/Air Walk Free Ride competition had their passes pulled for ignoring rules or riding out of control at the beginning of the 1997-98 season.

About 12 percent of the Skico’s business came from snowboard riders last season. Despite that hefty number, no permanent change in the Aspen Mountain ban is contemplated, according to company officials.

Aspen Mountain is one of only five major resorts in the country where snowboarding is banned. The others are Alta and Deer Valley in Utah; Mad River Glen, Vt.; and Taos Ski Valley, N.M.

The Skico typically lifts its ban when none of its other three areas is open. That will soon be the case.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to close at the end of Sunday, April 4.

Snowmass will close Sunday, April 11.

The Skico is also sticking to its April 18 scheduled closing at Ajax. Downloading in the Silver Queen Gondola might be a requirement for the first time in several seasons, thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures throughout this winter.

Weather isn’t the only reason Aspen is limping to the finish line. March came in and will leave like a lamb when it comes to hotel and lodge occupancies.

Aspen properties lagged about 10 percent behind last year’s occupancy rates for each week in March, according to a report by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. In contrast, Snowmass lodges have been nearly full the last couple of weeks.

The numbers haven’t been any better on the slopes. The Skico’s business was down 12 percent overall heading into March.

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