Town, merchants step up over holidays in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Town, merchants step up over holidays in Snowmass

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Skiers and snowboarders pack the Village Express chairlift, which starts in Snowmass Base Village and takes passengers to to the top of Sam's Knob. Aspen Skiing Co.'s four mountains typically see the most visitors during the Christmas to New Year's Day period.
Aubree Dallas/Snowmass Sun |

Santa might have his work cut out for him over Christmas, but so do the workers of Snowmass Village.

It takes a lot of extra resources to keep things running smoothly when thousands of additional people come to stay in homes, condos and hotel rooms for the weeks around Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day. Just ask Police Chief Brian Olson, who had to send his officers out to the streets to direct traffic at intersections like Brush Creek and Owl Creek roads.

“It’s a good thing (to have lots of visitors), but it brings with it a little bit of travel woe,” Olson said.

While snow and winter weather have put roads in poor condition, Olson said that actually helps his officers because motorists are already driving slowly. In general, the department has experienced good behavior from drivers.

“We haven’t seen impatience. Everyone’s been in a really great mood,” Olson said. “Ultimately, it’s good to see large numbers.”

The police station isn’t the only town department with a greater call to action this time of year. Ridership of the Village Shuttle increased from about 2,500 the week of Dec. 14 through 20 to over 4,000 after Dec. 26, peaking at 5,252 passengers on New Year’s Eve, said David Peckler, transportation director. That means drivers are working longer hours and senior staff members are directing traffic away from bus stops to keep shuttles moving, he said.

The Public Works Department picks up the pace, too, said Director Anne Martens. Because of the increased use of the Village Shuttle and other town vehicles, the Fleet Division is staffed seven days a week starting around Thanksgiving, as is the Road Division, whose schedule is largely determined by the weather. About a week before Christmas, when the visitor numbers really start picking up, the Solid Waste Department also starts collecting trash seven days a week. And Facilities Maintenance has to keep an eye on the snowmelt system on Carriage Way.

But it’s not just municipal departments that step up this time of year. Jeff Jandegian, co-owner of the Snowmass Resort Conoco, said the station has been busy keeping cars going.

“We’ve been towing (cars that get stuck),” Jandegian said. “And we’ve been putting air in about 25 to 30 cars a day.”

Of course, the center of activity is the Snowmass ski area. Aspen Skiing Co.’s four mountains saw over 21,000 skiers and snowboarders on Dec. 31, possibly a record, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle. More than half of those visits would have been on Snowmass, he said.

“We’re lucky because we have such a good staff,” said Snowmass Mountain Manager Steve Sewell. “Basically it’s all hands on deck.”

That includes everyone from restaurant workers and ski and snowboard instructors to on-mountain department heads and even Skico senior staff.

“It’s not unusual to see (Skico CEO) Mike Kaplan out there helping to park cars and direct traffic, and then he’ll head up the mountain to the restaurants and bus tables,” Sewell said. “We’re lucky we’ve got folks who are willing to come up.”

Overall, Sewell thinks the holiday period went smoothly on Snowmass. Lifts ran well, conditions were great, and skiers and snowboarders rode safely, he said.

jill@snowmasssun.com


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