Making the days count: First 100 days of the winter season at Snowmass
As people funneled through the turnstiles and lined up to ride the Village Express on March 1, something was different.
It wasn’t the number of people, really, or the tunes cutting through the Sunday morning air as people skied and snowboarded to get on the Fanny Hill lift. It was the little plastic baggy perched on the guest services kiosk with dozens of shiny, blue pins that had “100 Days” inscribed on them.
And the first person to claim one of those pins March 1, the 100th day of the Aspen-Snowmass winter season, at the Village Express was ski instructor Mike Jacobs.
“If I’m not teaching, I’m skiing with friends,” Jacobs said of reaching 100 ski days by the 100th day of the season, noting he’s set to reach 1,000 days of skiing at Aspen-Snowmass this year as well.
Since 2005, Jacobs has been living and skiing in the Aspen area full-time but first discovered the four mountain resorts in 1978 while visiting from New York.
When he decided he wanted to retire and spend his time skiing, Jacobs said he knew he wanted to come to the Roaring Fork Valley. He had no intention of becoming an instructor, but after taking lessons himself and being talked into teaching, Jacobs said he’s grown to become one of Snowmass’ top instructors.
“It’s way beyond anything I’d ever imagined and helps me get what I really need in life which is connection with other people,” Jacobs said of being a Skico instructor.
“For me, skiing has absolutely everything; it’s a mental activity, physical activity, artistic activity, it brings you to the mountains. … I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s truly all-encompassing.”
Jacobs went on to say that although he received his 100-day pin a week before the 100th day of the season last year because of the great snow conditions, he feels this year has been on par compared to years past and feels grateful to be working for Skico in what he referred to as a “world-class playground.”
When asked how the first 100 days of the season have gone for the Snowmass Ski Area, mountain manager Susan Cross assessment was similar: There’s been snow when the ski area’s needed it, happy locals and guests and minimal hiccups so far.
Mountain traffic-wise, she said she’s proud of the on- and off-mountain Skico staff for handling the holiday season well and the general trend has been mellow Monday through Thursdays, an uptick in skiers and snowboarders Friday and Saturday, and steady Sundays with slower mornings and busier afternoons.
“Our numbers are looking solid and are similar to what we’ve seen over the last couple of years,” Cross said. “It’s hard to believe it’s March already but it’s been great so far.”
Some of the first 100-day highlights for Cross included having more than 300 people participate in the New Year’s Eve torchlight parade and more than 150 take on the Mother of All Ascensions race on Fat Tuesday. She also said the more regular, local races and competitions have run smoothly and the new Sam’s restaurant on Sam’s Knob has been a huge hit.
Cross said although there have been a lot of positives, she and her staff plan to continue improving their guest services and interactions with people on the mountain, as well as better educating people on how to ski Snowmass.
Cross said there have been long lines at the Elk Camp and Alpine Springs lifts, and Skico staff are working to better spread out people to other areas of the 3,300-acre resort to mitigate the congestion.
Part of spreading people to other areas of the mountain and improving the guest experience comes from informing skiers and snowboarders where the lift lines are, Cross said, but also from offering different trail options.
She said 56% of people who come to Snowmass are looking for groomed, blue or intermediate level runs, so on-mountain staff has worked to mix up the areas they groom to help bring people to different areas.
“We want people to keep having fun and to give them different experiences,” Cross said.
Overall, Cross said she’s happy with the first 100 days, is excited to head into March and spring break, and that the remaining roughly 49 days of the season are some of the most enjoyable.
“This is a fun part of the season, there’s more sun and the days are longer which is why I enjoy it,” Cross said. “We’re not counting the days, we’re making the days count.”
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The town of Snowmass Village has its eyes on some safety improvements on Highline Road and a section of Brush Creek Road that will give pedestrians and cyclists a little more room to breathe on the side of the road.