The Aspen Skiing Co. outlined its goals for the upcoming year at Monday’s Aspen City Council work session.
Highlights included the company’s intention to maintain its methane-energy partnership with coal giant Oxbow Corp. in Elk Creek, increased attention to international guests and the aim to make Aspen/Snowmass a world-class summer destination.
Skico’s partnership with Oxbow — one of the world’s biggest coal companies — in Somerset turns waste methane into 24 million kilowatt-hours of power, which fuels Skico’s four resorts, 13 restaurants and three hotels. Skico CEO and President Mike Kaplan described it as an “unlikely partnership.” He said the two companies don’t see eye to eye on the reality of climate change, but he noted that the two do know how to “recognize a resource.”
Kaplan estimates that the international market makes up 20 to 25 percent of Skico’s winter guests. He floated the idea of having foreign-language speakers greet international guests at the terminal to make them feel more welcome. He said that market is a “huge opportunity” for Aspen.
David Corbin, vice president of planning and development for Skico, said the company has had formalized meetings about making Aspen/Snowmass a world-class summer destination. He said that while Skico has invested more than $30 million in improving summer activities at Elk Camp in Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are still behind. He asked of the council that the city — and Pitkin County — increase participation in improving the valley as a summer destination. Mayor Steve Skadron pointed to the USA Pro Challenge as a possible avenue of increasing occupancy during the summer.
Kaplan said he supports the race, citing Skico’s monetary contributions over the years, but that he would like to see a broader base of private investors join in.
Another area addressed during Skico’s presentation was Aspen’s loss of lodging. David Perry, vice president of Skico’s Mountain Division, cited missed opportunities at Lift 1A. He asked that the council revisit the lessons learned from a property that has seen various development projects stall over the years. Skadron said it has been a great loss to see opportunities evaporate at Lift 1A but that lodging is a great challenge. Council member Ann Mullins agreed, saying upgrades at current lodging need to be addressed before the city can move on to additional projects.
Jim Laing, vice president of human resources at Skico, boasted the company’s management philosophy and the effect it’s had on its employees. He said Skico wants to be “in business forever” and that a big part of that is the quality of life for employees.
He said the company employs more than 500 workers with more than 20 years of service with the company. He also said that when fully staffed, the company employs 3,500 people.
“What’s good for our employees is good for our company and good for the community,” Laing said, adding that since 2007, payroll has grown 4.6 percent per year, during “some tough years.”