Last weekend’s ski scenario matched last season perfectly: Friday snowstorm setting up Saturday powder day? Check. Big crowds waiting at the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain? Check. Locals speculating and blaming on Ikon Pass holders? Check.
Count me among those suspecting it was outsiders storming our slopes. We expected to find a line at the gondola at 8:45 a.m. but were a little exasperated to find an even longer line after one glorious top-to-bottom lap via the Back of Bell.
Later in the day, I saw Aspen Skiing Co. executive Rich Burkley at the Sundeck and muttered something to him about the influx of Ikoners. He used both anecdotal evidence and data to set me straight. First off, he said, he waited in the early line like everybody else first thing in the morning and couldn’t help but notice darn near everybody knew darn near everybody else.
More convincingly, he pulled up data from the ticket scanners at the bottom of the gondola that showed who was on the slopes. When we talked at about 11:30 a.m., there were roughly 2,450 skiers and snowboarders on Aspen Mountain. Only about 400 of them were “paying customers” — meaning those who had purchased a single- or multi-day lift ticket or an Ikon Pass. More than 2,000 skiers were Skico season pass holders, according to the information Burkley had. In other words, the ratio was about 5-to-1 season pass holders to other customers.
The moral of the story for me: don’t be hasty to blame “outsiders” for lift lines. When conditions are as good as they were Saturday, locals will flock to the slopes. We wouldn’t want it any other way.