Aspen Skiing Co. won’t announce chamber discounted ski pass prices until after Labor Day

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
People load onto the Silver Queen Gondola at the base of Aspen Mountain on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Aspen Skiing Co. is working on its winter operations plan. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Skiers and riders will have to wait a little longer than usual to get fired up about the 2020-21 ski season.

Aspen Skiing Co. decided it will wait until after Labor Day to release season ski pass options and prices eligible for the chamber of commerce discount. They are typically unveiled and put on sale in mid-August.

“Season passes for the 2020-21 season will be on sale in late summer,” Skico said on its website. “However, our season pass products may change this season for the safety of our guests, employees, and the community.”

The entire ski industry is scrambling to figure out how to operate safely during the coronavirus crisis. A lot of it will depend on COVID-19 infection rates four months from now and what steps states are mandating to stop the spread.

“There are a lot of missing pieces to the season,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications. “We don’t know what ‘normal’ is going to look like.”

Skico officials have said in recent weeks they will watch how ski areas perform in Australia during what is the North American summer as well as what places such as Disney World do to handle crowds. Skico will also have its summer operations to draw on for experience.

While the ski industry has the advantage of being outdoor-oriented, it also has to figure out how to meet social distancing requirements in lift lines and on chairlift rides, at its on-mountain restaurants, in ski school classes and in ticket purchasing lines. The apres-ski scene could be bleak.

Limits on the number of passengers in the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain and the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass as potentially on the chairlifts creates the potential for crowding, particularly on powder weekend days, which attract the most customers.

Hanle said reservations for time on the slopes aren’t a preferred option. Reservations are being used this summer for visitors catching the shuttle to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area.

If reservations aren’t used, one way to limit crowds could be through season passes. Hanle said Skico officials are kicking around numerous ideas with passes, including “ways to incentivize people to spread out.” He said it was premature to discuss specific ideas because nothing has been finalized.

Decades ago, season passes had blackout dates that kept locals off the slopes during the busiest times of the season — such as Christmas and New Year’s, and Presidents’ Weekend. It was unpopular with many customers.

Skico’s full-season pass without the chamber discount has already gone on sale without blackout dates, so it appears unlikely Skico will implement blackout days with the chamber passes. A new pass might be created to reduce weekend crowds — using the incentive of a reduced price.

Like nearly many other major players in the ski industry, Skico is trying to ease concerns among potential pass purchases about the season being canceled and wasting their money. Passes purchased for the 2020-21 season are fully refundable through Nov. 20.

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