Aspen Announces Mountain User Fees for the First Time in 75 Seasons | Local News


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Aspen Skiing Co. acted under its rights as a special use permit holder on the national forest to implement a new royalty for climbers, according to the US Forest Service.

Roger Poirier, recreation staff manager for the White River National Forest, said ski resort operators are required to file an annual operating plan. Skico’s plan for 2021-2022 proposed an uphill pass fee of $ 69. It has been reviewed and approved by White River staff.

Resort operators are not allowed to charge entrance fees just to access the national forest, which is public land, Poirier said. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the services, he said.

People who practice skinning, snowshoeing or hiking uphill during the winter have access to parking, washrooms, groomed trails, avalanche control and ski patroller assistance. “It’s just to name a few,” Poirier said.

He said the explosion in popularity of the rise in recent years shows that the services are in demand.

“There’s a reason people go to Ajax to ski rather than the backcountry,” Poirier said.

Skico announced on Monday that it will start charging for an uphill pass for the first time in 75 seasons. Climbers will be required to display a photo pass in an armband worn on a sleeve. They are subject to ad hoc compliance checks by ski patrol and mountain operations staff.

Some observers have alleged in comments on Facebook that the climb fee is illegal because Skico does not own the national forest. Poirier said he received a handful of inquiries and complaints about the policy after Skico’s announcement.

“People love their public lands here,” he said.

Poirier said he pointed out to people who contacted him that Skico can charge the fees and explained why.

Aspen Snowmass is at least the fourth resort in the White River National Forest to charge an additional fee. The Sunlight Mountain Resort charged $ 50 for a season pass and $ 10 for a single visit in 2020-21. Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin charged $ 59 last season for an uphill access pass. All three ski areas provided the lift pass free of charge to people who purchased a season pass. Aspen Skiing Co. will also provide its Climb Pass for free to people who purchase its Premier Pass.

“Uphill passes are kind of a new product,” Poirier said.

Climbers who don’t like the payment policy may choose not to pay the fee and clear the slopes outside the ski area, he noted, but they will not have services such as ski check. avalanches or groomed trails.

The 11 ski areas of the White River National Forest represent less than 2% of the 2.3 million acres of the White River National Forest.

“There are tons of free places to go,” Poirier said.

However, he believes the additional fee could result in more people rather than fewer people participating in the activity. This will increase awareness of the activity and “solidify” its status as an option, Poirier said. Some stations are starting to guide people uphill or to partner with companies that provide the service.

The forest service sees the adoption of the climb by some stations as another way to meet the demands of public activities.

Ski resorts pay fees for the use of public lands in their operations. The White River National Forest was disclosing the fee amount on a station-by-station basis. Now he only reports the lump sum after Vail Resorts complained about the disclosure of individual payments.

For the federal government’s fiscal year 2017, the 11 White River ski resorts paid a total of $ 20.18 million in fees to the Forest Service. This included $ 105,917 for Aspen Mountain; $ 441,049 for the Aspen Highlands; $ 1,624,731 for Snowmass; and $ 267,380 for buttermilk.

Aspen Mountain has a high percentage of private land within the ski area boundaries.

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