Aspen Skiing Co. to shut down for a week, Sunlight for the remainder of the season after Colorado governor orders closure

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
and John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan meets with ski instructors at Snowmass Base Village Saturday morning.
David Krause/The Aspen Times

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Saturday evening it will close all ski operations at its four ski areas immediately “by order of the governor of the state of Colorado.”

“Our plan is to conduct some limited on-mountain maintenance to potentially have a limited last season opening if circumstances allow,” Skico said in a statement late Saturday.

“We are all skiers at heart and we understand the therapeutic nature of our shared passion. Extreme circumstances call for extreme actions, and we make this decision in coordination with our local and state health agencies. Let’s work together as a community to support each other and will all come out stronger on the other side.”

For Sunlight Mountain Resort in Glenwood Springs, the order essentially means the end of the season for the small ski area.

“Honestly, it’s hard for us to stop like that and restart again with employee needs to consider,” Sunlight Sales and Marketing Director Troy Hawks said. “Conditions are good, and we would have been happy to make it to our April 5 closing date. That was certainly our intention.”

The closure order was due to the statewide effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Coming at the start of spring break is a major blow for Sunlight, Hawks said.

The closure order was due to the statewide effort to control the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Coming at the start of spring break is a major blow for Sunlight, Hawks said.

“The challenges posed by COVID-19 are unique and place significant burdens on hospitals and medical personnel,” according to the executive order. “We are aware of the great cost that mountain communities face if our downhill ski resorts close, even temporarily. These costs will be borne by local residents and businesses, and by the individuals and families who come to Colorado to enjoy our beautiful mountains and world-renowned skiing.

“But in the face of this pandemic emergency we cannot hesitate to protect public health and safety,” the executive order reads.

Polis added in a formal statement, “Never would I have believed that a global pandemic would force the temporary closure of our world-class ski resorts. Like so many Colorado families, we were planning a ski trip with our kids over their spring break next weekend. 

“Beyond being a major part of our way of life, skiing supports our workers and businesses,” Polis said. “For those of us who treasure living our lives outdoors, sacrificing our fun is the easier part; but for those who depend on employment in our Colorado high country, the uncertainty of how long they will be out of a job is terrifying. 

“It is with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility that I take the agonizing action that this moment demands. I take solace in knowing that while we will be temporarily closed for business, we will be saving the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Coloradans in the days and weeks ahead.”

Skico’s decision was a dramatic reversal of its position from Friday when president and CEO Mike Kaplan said the company had measured all moral, legal and business factors and decided to stay open while implementing numerous safety precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Kaplan said, “We think it is the right thing to do. We see it as a vital public service to stay up and running.”

Skico’s announcement that it was closing by order of Polis indicated the reversal in position was required.

Ski resorts around the region started announcing closures on Saturday.

Vail Resorts started the ball rolling in Colorado with an announcement at 4:09 p.m. that it would close all its North American resorts today through March 22, and then reassess its approach for the rest of the season.

The decision affected Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado.

In a press conference on Friday, Polis said that he thought Colorado ski resorts were taking adequate precautions against the virus while staying open. On Saturday, Polis issued a statement commending Vail Resorts for its decision.

“I commend Vail Resorts for taking this difficult, responsible step and urge other mountains and resorts to do the same,” Polis said in a statement issued at 4:55 p.m.

At 5:35 p.m., Alterra Mountain Co. announced it was closing its resorts until further notice. The company owns Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain in California; and Deer Valley in Utah, among others.

Alterra is partially owned by the Crown family, which owns all of Aspen Skiing Co. That foreshadowed Aspen Skiing Co.’s decision.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.