Will Aspen extend the ski season?
ASPEN ” Less than three months ago, Aspenites wondered if there was enough snow for the ski areas to open on time. Now, there’s so much snow people wonder if the ski season will be extended.
The answer from the Aspen Skiing Co. brass is … they can’t say yet.
“We have talked about the possibility of extending the season ” but at this point it has literally only been preliminary and conceptual in nature ” certainly nothing definitive at all,” said David Perry, Skico senior vice president ” mountain division, in response to an e-mail from The Aspen Times. “With all this snow we suspect that we will have snow to ski on long past when we have guests wanting to ski.”
The lack of business after April 13 isn’t the only determining factor, he said. An extension also could be a “reward or thank you” for local passholders.
The calendar creates an early closure to the ski season this year. Easter falls earlier than normal, March 23, so the scheduled end of ski season is earlier. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are slated to close April 6; Snowmass and Aspen Mountain are scheduled to close April 13.
The Skico already made one scheduling concession this winter. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk usually close two weeks before the other ski areas. That would have closed them too early, so Skico narrowed the gap to only one week.
Skico also is extending the hours that some chairlifts stay open from Saturday until the end of the season. Starting Feb. 16, the following lifts will be open until 4 p.m.: Silver Queen Gondola and Ajax Express at Aspen Mountain; Village Express, Big Burn and Elk Camp at Snowmass; Exhibition and Cloud 9 at Aspen Highlands; and Summit Express and Panda Peak at Buttermilk. All other lifts will close at their normal time.
Vail Mountain announced this week that it will close as scheduled April 13. The new head of Vail’s mountain operations, Chris Jarnot, said the early date of Easter “evaporates” business among skiers from outside the area.
Perry said the Skico is under no pressure to make a quick decision about extending the season. It won’t “drive business” by staying open longer, so the company doesn’t have to get the word out to perspective guests.
There are precedents for prolonging the season. In past winters, Skico opened Aspen Mountain and Snowmass on weekends after the scheduled closing because there was so much snow. Just last season, the season at Aspen Highlands was extended for a week.
Perry noted that passholders were drifting away from skiing last March because conditions were so warm and dry. They were heading west to hike and ride mountain bikes in the desert. So Skico announced that Highlands would remain open a week longer than scheduled to redirect attention to the slopes.
Weather will play a part in this season’s decision. Superb snow conditions could evaporate between now and April 13 and make the decision easy.
“We haven’t ruled anything out,” Perry said, noting that applied to both closing on time and extending the season.
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