I am writing in response to the article in Monday’s Aspen Daily News titled “FIS watching Aspen election with eye to future.” The letter is pure fearmongering by Mike Kaplan and Aspen Skiing Co. on the eve of the vote on Referendum 1 and is an example of why, at times, Skico steps on its own credibility. First, Kaplan says that a new lift will need to be installed to keep the 2017 World Cup and that the parcel on which it will be located will need to be rezoned. Referendum 1 has nothing to do with rezoning and will have zero effect on the construction of new lifts — Lift 1A has an existing approval. Larger buildings, less parking, less affordable housing and lack of town character will not support the lift, but attracting visitors and the resulting lift-ticket sales and filling existing hotels will. Visitors come to Aspen because of its character; lose the character and lose the visitors, who will then go to the other over-built resorts that are far easier to get to.
Second, Kaplan says that FIS is asking host resorts to bring more animation and a livelier atmosphere to World Cup events and that he fears passage of Referendum 1 will shut down more development. Animation and livelier atmosphere can easily be brought to events without the development of ever larger buildings. In fact, they can easily be accomplished with the existing development if the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and the city work with local businesses to put on fun events during World Cup (isn’t it the association’s job to organize lively events instead of telling locals that more and larger development benefits our entire community?).
The World Cup has been coming to Aspen for 15 years partly because of the character of our town. Of course, we have increased competition from other resorts for World Cup events, and we have to be smart to maintain a World Cup event here. However, being smart does not mean destroying the very things that attract the World Cup and all the other visitors to our town. Being smart is the Aspen Chamber Resort Association doing its job of selling our town as the place to go and organizing its members to get behind and create the animation and liveliness that FIS wants.
Finally, Referendum 1 is designed to let voters have the final say on whether a requested variance benefits our community. So, let’s assume for one moment that FIS is requiring Aspen to build larger buildings in order for us to maintain an event here. Aspen voters need to ask themselves whether it should be upon us, instead of just the City Council, to decide whether it is worth losing the character of our town in order to attract an event that lasts three to four days, leaving us to stare at buildings similar to the art museum for the rest of the year. That is a question for the voters to decide, not the Aspen Chamber Resort Association or Skico.
J. Cavanaugh O’Leary