Kaplan, Aspen Skiing Co. hopeful for ‘limited operations’ at ski areas

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Droves of Roaring Fork Valley residents put on climbing skins for the journey uphill at Tiehack on Sunday. While lift-served skiing is suspended, uphillers are welcome.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Buttermilk will remain closed for the season for alpine skiing even if a state order to suspend operations is lifted after Sunday, Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan said Monday.

Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass remain on standby. Kaplan said he hopes a limited end to ski season can be salvaged.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Saturday evening requiring all ski areas in the state to close through March 22.

“If he lifts it after that, we’re going to be doing a lot of talking (with Pitkin County officials), and if everybody is comfortable, we’ll have some thoughtful, limited operations,” Kaplan said.

If the ski areas are allowed to reopen, it will be without restaurants and bars. They were ordered shut Monday by the state.

Meanwhile, people are welcome to skin up and ski down the slopes with the understanding that there are no services and no ski patrol to come to the rescue in case of accidents. Hundreds of people took to the slopes of Tiehack on Sunday.

“From personal experience, don’t go too early. It’s a little frozen up there,” Kaplan said. “And don’t go too late. It’s a little slushy. Just be careful. Keep it on the easy stuff. We know how hard our first responders and our medical personnel are working and we don’t need to make their lives more difficult.”

But Kaplan said it also will be important for people to continue getting outdoors for exercise and sunshine at a time when community meeting places are closed to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Kaplan made his remarks at a community meeting that the public watched via livestream. He was among a panel of speakers that included officials from Pitkin County, Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen School District.

After his comments, Skico sent out a written update on current plans for its facilities.

“First and foremost, if we can reopen our ski operations, we will,” the statement said. “Of course we would only do so if all of our agencies locally and the governor are comfortable with the decisions and precautions that we would implement.”

Forecasting if and when a reopening will occur is “impossible,” Skico said.

A skeleton crew will be in place to minimally maintain the main access and egress routes on the ski areas, Skico’s statement said.

All Four Mountain Sports stores except Snowmass Base Village and Aspen will close this week until there is more clarity on reopening. The Two Creeks store and restaurant will be closed for the season.

The Aspen and Snowmass gondola ticket offices and the call centers will remain open.

The Little Nell Hotel and Limelight Snowmass will close as soon as guests can make other arrangements. They will reopen for the summer as scheduled. The Limelight hotels in Aspen and Ketchum, Idaho, will remain open.

Kaplan quipped at the online community meeting that offseason is usually a favorite time of year after a long winter.

“So, offseason got a little longer this year,” he said.

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