‘Afternoon Blend’ offers insight into past and future seasons on the slopes

With less than a week to go until ski resort opening day, Aspen Skiing Company and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association previewed the winter ahead at an “Afternoon Blend” event on Tuesday.

It was the last time Mike Kaplan stood on the podium for the annual season preview, and the outgoing Skico CEO was feeling a little nostalgic.

Instead of the usual look to the future, Kaplan mostly reflected on his tenure at the helm of the company during his speech at the two-hour event. (He announced in the spring of 2022 that he would step down at the end of the 2022-23 ski season.)

“I thought about it for a bit, and…one of the interesting things about this company is that no two years are the same, are there?” said Kaplan.

This means big snow years and low snow years, as well as many other trials and triumphs, from resort developments and employee housing to the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery.

Kaplan said he feels good about the road ahead.

“We’re providing this opportunity to pursue what I call a meaningful life, and that, looking back, is really powerful, and really a (thing) that moves me forward with no regrets,” Kaplan said. “As we look to the future, I am optimistic about our future.”

As for his successor?

“You’ll hear about it in the months to come, but until then you’re in good hands,” Kaplan said.

Following Kaplan’s speech, Skico Senior Vice President John Rigney gave an overview of what lies ahead this winter. And, already, things are starting well, he says.

“We are clearly looking at great conditions to start a season,” Rigney said.

Favorable conditions will allow Aspen Mountain and the Snowmass ski area to open five days earlier than expected, with the season kickoff now scheduled for November 19 instead of Thanksgiving on November 24.

According to Skico, 174 acres will be open on Aspen Mountain for opening day with top-to-bottom skiing. This means there is enough snow for skiers to avoid downloading onto the Silver Queen Gondola. In addition to the gondola, the Ajax Express and Gent’s Ridge chairlifts will operate and 15 runs will be open.

At Snowmass, Skico said 78 acres of skiable terrain will be open. Eight trails will be open to skiers, served by the Elk Camp Gondola, Elk Camp Meadows Chairlift and Village Express Lift. The SkyCab gondola between Base Village and Snowmass Mall will also operate. And the Sundeck at Aspen Mountain and the Elk Camp Restaurant at Snowmass will be open for business.

Across the ski area landscape, resort visitors this season can expect a revamped base area at Buttermilk and more self-service technology at all four Skico mountains, Rigney said.

Crews also began work this summer on an extension of lift-served terrain in the ‘Pandora’ side-country area on Aspen Mountain, but that area won’t be open to all skiers until the 2023 ski season. -24,

“Keep in mind this year it’s still backcountry, it’s closed,” Rigney said. “We can do some work there, we can close the door for a while. We ask you to watch this, but overall the excitement comes after next summer.

Highlights are also on the calendar this season. The Winter X Games take place in Buttermilk in January (Rigney confirmed that concerts taking place in tandem with the games are back this year) and World Cup skiing returns to the slopes of Aspen Mountain in march.

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