Why Highlands got the nod
ASPEN – While many locals say they appreciate Aspen Skiing Co.’s decision to keep one local ski area open through Easter, others are scratching their heads at the choice of Highlands over either Aspen Mountain or Snowmass.Snowmass, which traditionally receives a strong south-of-the-border market for the Easter holiday, would seem like the logical choice, according to some local merchants.”When I first saw the schedule and saw it was Highlands, I was disappointed,” said Scott Calliham, the managing partner of Base Camp Bar & Grill in Base Village.”I don’t think it’s necessarily the best thing for the guests,” he added. But given the slow business and paucity of guests during the past week, Calliham recognizes it may be a blessing in disguise.”We’re clinging on to break even right now. Another week or two and we would probably be losing money,” Calliham said, while completing preparations for a season-ending party that continues through Sunday. The second annual Base Bash features bands, drink and shopping specials at Base Village establishments as well as a roster of kids’ activities. Should the weather turn foul, they’ll be ready with tents and tarps to protect the musical entertainment and some guests as well.According to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle, Highlands’ orientation and elevation “gives us the best chance of having the best snow up high.” Snowmass’ pitch, the orientation of its lower mountain runs and operational costs related to its sprawling acres, are all seen as negatives. Also, given how late Easter is this year, “we’re not seeing late Easter bookings,” Hanle noted.Robby Pastore, owner of the Taste of Philly eatery on the Snowmass Mall, agreed that “The Mexican visitors (who normally book Snowmass for Easter week) have already come and gone.” Like Calliham, he isn’t too disappointed that his season will end on Sunday. “I’m not really bummed because of the fact (the late season) is very local-oriented,” he said, rather than packed with more free-spending guests.And that’s also one reason Highlands got the nod over the other two mountains, Hanle said.”Highlands has been very successful with extended seasons. Also, a lot of our clientele comes from other ski areas in the state. Highlands and the Bowl seems to be a bigger draw for them (than Aspen Mountain or Snowmass). Why mess with a good thing?”Hanle said the cost of operating the Silver Queen Gondola versus running two quad chairs at Highlands didn’t factor into the decision.Down at the base of Highlands, Adam Rothberg, the owner/manager of Out of Bounds restaurant, is calling the extended season “an experiment that has yet to be tried.” While Rothberg said he feels upbeat about the next two weekends of business, he has noticed a distinct drop-off in weekday business of late.Given the recent warm temperatures, he also asked: “How many passholders are around and how many want to keep skiing?”Skico and Out of Bounds are offering some reasons to come on out to Highlands the next two weekends, with extended hours on April 16 and a closing day event on Easter that will involve “all sorts of music,” Rothberg said.Still, Rothberg said he is approaching the extended season with a different perspective: “I don’t know if we’re going to be profitable. [Staying open] is more like a service.”Skico’s Hanle agrees. “We’re staying open that late because we need to.”email@example.com
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