Ski execs look to lure new visitors, expand season
Ryan Summerlin October 7, 2013
ASPEN — Ski executives from Colorado and Wyoming say their resorts must adapt to lure a new generation of snow riders and to attract visitors in summer as well as winter.
Younger skiers aren’t booking rooms in the same places as older Baby Boomers, and resort towns have to offer lodging that appeals to them, Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Skiing Co., said Thursday.
Jerry Blann, president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, said the close proximity of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons national parks is a built-in bonus for Jackson in summer.
“Prices to fly in have skyrocketed the past few years.” Aspen leaders enticed American Airlines to start service after Frontier Airlines pulled out last year, and that helped keep prices in check.
CEO, Aspen Skiing Co.
They spoke at a real estate and tourism symposium in Aspen.
Jackson Hole drew just over 500,000 skier visits last season, a record for the resort. Aspen regularly draws between 1.2 and 1.4 million skier visits to its four mountains.
Noting that the Baby Boom generation is aging, Kaplan said Aspen needs to “strengthen the pipeline of future customers,” especially with lodging that appeals to them.
Any new construction in a developed resort like Aspen must be infill, Kaplan said, which is short for “going to block somebody’s view.”
Aspen needs a stronger summer presence as well, Kaplan said, and needs to offer more recreational activities — such as mountain biking — at its existing facilities.
Blann said Jackson Hole dropped its pass price 25 percent three years ago, to $1,275, to stay affordable to younger skiers.
But he worried that his resort is lagging in attracting snowboarders, noting that maintaining snowboarding terrain parks like the ones Aspen has requires significant resources.
Blann said Jackson businesses have helped keep the resort attractive with a lodging tax to strengthen the town’s infrastructure.
Another issue is affordable airfares.
“Prices to fly in have skyrocketed the past few years,” Kaplan said. Aspen leaders enticed American Airlines to start service after Frontier Airlines pulled out last year, and that helped keep prices in check, Kaplan said.
Blann said Jackson, whose airport has an easier approach than Aspen’s, has cheaper airfares, averaging $50 a ticket less than Aspen.
Before moving to Jackson Hole, Blann worked for Aspen Skiing Co. for 18 years and was CEO from 1985-1988.
— The Associated Press