| VailDaily.com

Kaplan announces he will step down as leader of Aspen Skiing Co.

President and CEO of Aspen Skiing Company Mike Kaplan stands under Lift 1A after a lap under lift line to celebrate the 75th anniversary of lift access skiing and skico on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan stunned employees at a meeting Wednesday night with the announcement of his retirement one year from now, in April 2023.

Kaplan made the announcement at a party celebrating multiple years of service by several employees. The party is held toward the end of every season.

One Skico employee who attended the meeting said the audience was caught off guard.

“There were a few hands over mouths and sad reflections,” the employee said. “I think everyone just thought he would be there (for a long time).”

Kaplan also disclosed the news in an employee newsletter that was released simultaneously with his announcement. A copy of that newsletter was obtained by The Aspen Times.

“Today, I write to you with a tear in my eye and a knot in my stomach as I announce my retirement as President and CEO from Aspen Skiing Company, effective next year, April 30, 2023,” Kaplan wrote in the opening line of his announcement.

Mike Kaplan, CEO of Aspen Skiing Co., announced Wednesday he will leave in April 2023.
Austin Colbert / Aspen Times archives

His announcement did not offer details on his decision. He noted that next year will be his 30th year with the company and that “it’s time for me to step back and welcome new leadership and perspectives.”

There is no apparent rift between Kaplan and the Crown family, full owners of the company.

“You’ve heard me say many times that our ownership just gets it,” Kaplan wrote. “They have empathy and are steadfast in their commitment to our values, our community, and us as people. Ultimately, it is their belief that doing business right is good business which has allowed me to succeed and for our company to thrive. (Managing partner) Jim Crown has been a great mentor, friend and boss, and I know that he will steward this organization into the future by selecting a solid successor. He will keep our positive momentum moving forward.”

“Today, I write to you with a tear in my eye and a knot in my stomach as I announce my retirement as President and CEO from Aspen Skiing Company, effective next year, April 30, 2023.” — Mike Kaplan in email to Skico employees

Kaplan took the reins of Skico in November 2006. He was 42 years of age at the time and had risen through the ranks of the company.

Kaplan worked at Taos Ski Valley during and after his undergraduate years in college. He immersed himself in all aspects of the operation. He told The Aspen Times in 2007 that he wanted to work in ski area operations but realized while at Taos he would plateau in middle management without further preparation. He earned his MBA from the University of Denver.

He was hired by Skico in 1993 to oversee the Aspen Mountain ski school. He worked through the combined ski schools and eventually switched to mountain operations. He was appointed chief operating officer in 2005 as second-in-command to then president and CEO Pat O’Donnell. That set him up to take the leadership role when O’Donnell retired a year later.

Mike Kaplan shares a toast to Aspen Skiing Company’s 75th anniversary with the Crown family at Willoughby Park at the base of Aspen Mountain on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Kaplan is widely acclaimed by Skico employees as a popular and inspiring leader. As an executive in his late 50s, few people saw him bowing out of the leadership role at this point.

Kaplan’s email to employees said Skico would begin the search for a new leader immediately.

“We’ll engage a search firm to manage the process and aim to have someone in place for next winter,” Kaplan wrote. “Again, I’ll be here to support him/her/them once identified.”

He said he and his wife, Laura, will remain in the Roaring Fork Valley “and I will continue to work for the Crown family in an advisory capacity.”

He vowed to continue teaching, loading chairlifts or showing up on the front lines during busy times.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Vaccination status for recent COVID-19 fatalities in Eagle County is protected info

This week’s report that during the past two weeks three Eagle County residents died as a result of COVID-19 set off a round of questions regarding the vaccination status of the individuals.
Daily file photo

Wednesday’s announcement of three additional Eagle County COVID-19 deaths during the past two weeks set off a flurry of questions regarding the vaccination status of the three individuals.

According to Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment, vaccination status is protected medical information that cannot be released through his office.

“We want to convey our deepest condolences to the families of these three community members. Each death has a profound impact on our entire community,” Harmon said. “Although we cannot discuss specific medical history or protected health information for any COVID-19 cases, we do acknowledge the important questions this raises for many of our community members.”

Throughout the pandemic, the only information provided by local health officials regarding COVID-19 fatalities has been the age and sex of the victim and the date of death. Any additional information reported by the Vail Daily was provided by victims’ families or other authorized individuals.

Harmon said he understands community members’ desire for addition information, especially in cases of severe COVID-19 cases and fatalities. With the three new deaths, the virus has now claimed 26 Eagle County residents since it arrived in March 2020.

“Severe disease, hospitalization, and deaths have been rare for our community,” Harmon said. “However, I believe the impact to our community can at times be even larger, given our smaller population and the connection we often have directly with one or many of our fallen community members.”

Harmon noted that since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been 58 COVID-19 hospitalizations for Eagle County residents.

“Among all of these hospitalizations, two were fully vaccinated,” he said. “The vaccines help prevent illness and spread and protect against severe disease. COVID-19 vaccines are really good, but not perfect. Unfortunately, some fully vaccinated people will get ill, fewer will be hospitalized, and even fewer can die as a result of COVID-19.”

Harmon reported that nationally there have been 1,507 deaths among fully vaccinated people out of 164 million people who have been fully vaccinated. He noted that translated into nine deaths out over every 1 million people who are were fully vaccinated.

“Vaccines are very helpful to decrease risk, but they cannot eliminate risk,” he said. “It remains important for everyone to understand when COVID-19 risks are higher in the community and the precautions that can be taken in addition to vaccination to protect themselves, family members, and friends.”

“It is important to note that while any COVID-19 death is a tragedy, the likelihood of someone who is fully vaccinated dying from COVID-19 remains incredibly small,” Harmon continued. “Although numbers and comparisons can help convey a sense of risk, I don’t want numbers to minimize or dehumanize the impact of losing 26 of our community members. Each has had a devastating and emotional ripple that touches all of us.”

WATCH: Snow falling at Beaver Creek

Kaiser Permanente leaving Eagle, Summit counties

VAIL – Colorado’s High Country will have one less health insurance and healthcare option by the end of the year.

Kaiser Permanente Colorado is pulling out of Eagle and Summit counties, the health care provider confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Kaiser partially blamed hospitals in Eagle and Summit counties, saying they have been “unreasonably opposed to contracting with us,” a marked shift from the 10-year commitment Kaiser made four years ago when it said those contracts might not matter. Kaiser also pointed fingers at Front Range hospitals for its troubles there. The Colorado Hospital Association countered that Kaiser is responsible for its own problems.

“Kaiser Permanente Colorado began serving the mountain communities nearly four years ago with the goal of increasing access to high-quality, affordable health care,” Amy L. Whited, director of communications, community health and engagement for Kaiser Permanente Colorado said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we have been a very small player in a challenging market, and hospitals in the community have been unreasonably opposed to contracting with us.”

The local hospitals are St. Anthony’s Summit Medical Center in Frisco and Vail Health Hospital.

“We were surprised to hear the news,” said Michael Holton with Vail Health. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality of care close to home.”

Without hospital contracts, Kaiser has not been able to secure a “sustainable level of membership,” Whited said.

Kaiser serves approximately 4,400 members in Summit and Eagle counties, less than 5 percent of the Eagle/Summit County market and less than 1 percent of Kaiser’s total membership in Colorado, Whited said.

“We are committed to minimizing the disruption for our members and assisting with the transition of their care and coverage,” Whited said.

’10-year proposition’

Ironically, Brent Bowman, Kaiser’s executive director for regional strategy said four years ago when the company entered opened in Eagle and Summit counties that, while not having a hospital contract would be a challenge, Kaiser was in it for the long haul.

“We have to commit to a 10-year proposition,” Bowman said at the time.

Kaiser’s four-year foray into Colorado’s resort region ends when it closes the Edwards and Frisco offices on Dec. 27.

Kaiser’s troubles are not limited to the High Country. Colorado’s largest health insurer laid off  400 people over the past eight months.

Kaiser’s High Country conundrum

Part of Kaiser’s High Country conundrum is competition or the lack of it, explained Bethe Wright of the Wright Insurance Co.

In Denver, and along Colorado’s more densely populated Front Range, health insurance providers can negotiate with hospitals and doctors for discounts as high as 50% on some procedures. In the High Country, that discount rarely tops 10 percent, numbers that are readily available from a patient’s billing statement, Wright said.

Besides opening medical clinics in Edwards and Frisco, Kaiser was among the first to offer online access to doctors. Kaiser had even offered to transport patients to Denver for medical procedures at a Kaiser facility, put them in a hotel and bring them home – if it was less expensive than the procedure would cost locally, a business method Kaiser has used successfully in other places.

And the good news is …

The good news is that this year’s state legislation might provide some relief in 2020.

The Vail Symposium and Vail Valley Partnership co-hosted a Vail Valley Business Forum on Thursday morning, “Healing What Ails Us … Affordable Healthcare In Our Community.” In the hour-and-a-half forum, healthcare executives and elected officials discussed how the private and public sectors are tackling the issue of skyrocketing healthcare and health insurance costs.

In Summit County, the Peak Health Alliance is scheduled to roll out next year and could mean health insurance rates drop by 20%.

Vail Health CEO Will Cook said the hospital and other Eagle County entities are working to roll out some solutions in 2021.

In the meantime the Vail Valley Partnership rolled out its One Valley Healthcare Program late last year. It’s not insurance, but covers preventive care and other options for employers, employees and sole-proprietors who are VVP members.

Kaiser’s departure leaves Anthem/Blue Cross as the only individual health insurance carrier left in Eagle County, while Summit also has Bright Health in addition to Anthem.

VIDEO: Fresh snow at Beaver Creek heading into the weekend

Cinch Express (chair 8) now open at Beaver Creek