Aspens youth drive changing face of the mountain

ASPEN, Colo. -- There is a new, youthful vibrancy about this Aspen community that resonates against its popular image of exclusivity, wealth, status, celebrity and luxury.

In a town characterized by remodeled Victorian homes mixed with architectural designs that border on modern art, fur coats with cowboy boots, and skis poking out from the open top of a Porsche convertible, these are not the only fashion statements anymore.

Cheaper lift tickets, package deals and a drive to attract youthful snowboarders and skiers to town are changing -- in some ways -- the look of things here.

The ski runs on Aspen Mountain, just above the town, have the reputation of being steep, both in altitude and price. And from the top of the mountain, the brightest thing in the valley may still be the reflections from rows of private jets shimmering in the sun at Aspens one-strip airport.

But with an eye toward higher skier numbers and improved profits, Aspen Skiing Co., one of the largest privately owned ski companies in the U.S., has gone in search of a new breed of winter sports enthusiasts who dont fit Aspens stereotype -- snowboarders.

Aspen has this image of being for rich old guys, said Ed Ryberg, ski industry program coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado. For years they even prohibited snowboarding on Aspen Mountain. But now they are promoting the X Games at their ski areas, and they have become associated with the extreme skiing crowd.

Aspen Skiing, owned by the Crown family, also is expanding into less-exclusive marketing territory by partnering with Intrawest Corp. to develop a new base village and lodging at Snowmass, Colo., a more modest ski resort less than 10 miles from Aspen Mountain.

The company, according to Ryberg and others, has been among the most successful in attracting new business from under-30 skiers with multiday ticket package deals and by investing in larger, faster ski lifts and things like half-pipes and other popular snowboard terrain.

The company also is drawing new attention from younger skiers who shop the Internet for last-minute ski and lodging deals, Ryberg notes.

These folks start looking now for openings in late November, and they are finding great deals to ski and stay at some of Aspens fancier places, he said. That is one thing thats changing their image. -- D.L.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI