Aspen’s old school ski season ahead, more moments less mania

Photo credit: Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Snowmass CEO, Mike Kaplan, has penned an open letter to Aspen guests ahead of the 2020/2021 northern ski season in the USA hinting at what’s to come. For Kaplan, life in a pandemic has called for a slower pace with more introspection and connection and less over the top après that Aspen has become famous for.

Gone may be those long chaotic and oh-so-joyous Cloud 9 lunches that have Aspen guests dancing on tables to the beat of a DJ under a spray of champagne. No definitive decisions have been made yet, but social distancing will change the shape of any gatherings in the ski town with no word yet on how the X Games in January will look.

The resort has no doubt been watching the operating procedures of Australia’s ski season to see what has and hasn’t worked in a bid to ensure a smooth ski season when their chairlifts eventually start turning.

Kaplan says that while many people crave a return to normal that “perhaps we can do better than that” before waxing lyrical about what matters in the new pandemic life.

“We all try to make the best of the current situation. One way is by getting back to the core of what’s important in our lives. For me, being in the mountains, going up and downhill, soaking in nature, getting closer to family and doing whatever I can to help my community have all taken on a heightened importance” wrote Kaplan in the open letter.

“As I bike or hike around familiar trails, I’m seeing new things, listening to perspective-shifting podcasts and wondering what our future holds—what will come back and what will be forever changed.”

The core of the letter is that Aspen Snowmass is doing everything they can to both open on time and stay open for the entire winter and to do it safely with correct protocols.

“Yes, there will be new procedures this winter, some of them annoying, and a handful of the exuberant social activities we are famous for will be greatly subdued. But there is an overarching opportunity in this new normal that I’m trying to embrace” writes Kaplan.

“Like everything in our lives pre-COVID, skiing and snowboarding had become somewhat frantic. Many of us were caught up in the conquests—tracking our bowl laps and vertical—rather than fully appreciating the moments.

I’m looking forward to refocusing on the core of what this sport is all about, what this place enables: a chance to connect deeply—with nature, with our physical selves and movements, and even with our sense of purpose and our roles in society. 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.”

He also reveals that gondolas and lifts will potentially have less people in and on them with social distancing. Face coverings will be required and outdoor seating may be extended with more heating. Transactions will be mainly digital including tickets, restaurants and payments.

Read the full letter here.


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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.