Aspen Skiing Co.’s Kaplan gives glimpse into the ski season ahead

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
People enjoy opening day on Aspen Mountain on Saturday, November 23, 2019. Uncertainty surrounds opening day of the 2020-21 ski season. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Aspen Skiing Co.’s top official advised customers in a letter Tuesday to temper their expectations but not curb their enthusiasm for the 2020-21 ski season.

Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan wrote that skiers and riders will likely have to readjust their sights for the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Racking up a bunch of laps at Highland Bowl and amassing impressive totals on vertical feet won’t be as easy. Chairlifts and gondolas won’t be loaded to capacity, so waits will be longer.

“No doubt, next ski season will be more of an old school experience, but that could also translate to less noise, fewer distractions and, hopefully, more meaning,” Kaplan wrote.

He acknowledged that there would be new procedures — “some of them annoying.”

“Loading and riding lifts and gondolas will have guidelines that limit contact between unrelated individuals,” Kaplan wrote. “Social-distancing measures and facial-covering requirements will be in place in all restaurants, ticket offices, ski school facilities and other indoor or congested areas. We are looking at expanding outdoor seating, adding coverage and heat where possible.”

Buying tickets, signing waivers, checking out menus, ordering food and paying bills will move to a digital format as much as possible.

Jeff Hanle, Skico’s vice president of communications, said Skico officials have been getting a lot of questions about the status of ski season from employees to lodge operators to longtime visitors. Kaplan decided to address questions the best he could, though a lot of uncertainty remains and pandemic conditions are likely to change in the nearly four months before ski season.

Skico announced last week it would delay the release of season pass options and prices available with a local chamber of commerce discount until after Labor Day. That fueled some speculation about ski season.

Kaplan’s letter said company officials are doing “everything possible to anticipate how to open on time and stay open all winter.” It has to be done safely, which he said he believes can happen with proper protocols and following advice of public health officials.

Skico and other ski areas regularly hire RRC Associates of Boulder to survey guests on a variety of topics. This year RRC conducted a survey in May about travel sentiments. Hanle said about 6,000 Skico customers were questioned.

The survey included asking respondents to rate their comfort level for activities such as dining out indoors, shopping, taking a road trip and going on a ski vacation; level of concern over contracting COVID-19; likelihood of buying a ski pass; and reacting of ski areas in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaplan referred to the survey in his letter. “The guest surveys we’ve conducted show that most of you are accepting of the necessary operational changes,” Kaplan wrote. “But to the handful who say we should operate as normal and ignore our public health professionals, I want to be clear: We will only go back to business as usual at the ski areas and in our restaurants and hotels when the science and health experts give us the unanimous ‘all clear.’ Until then, we’ll be serious and vigilant about keeping one another safe. Just like in skiing, we each must take responsibility for our own safety and avoid endangering others. If we can all own our roles and live them, I know we will open on time and remain open as long as the snow allows.”

Kaplan said Skico would keep its customers up–to-date on protocols for the season as they develop and evolve. His full letter can be found at Skico’s website at

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