Aspen's business decision overlooked one reality: A board isn't a ski.
It's not merely a cruel April Fool's joke. As of April 1, 2001, the Aspen Skiing Co. has ended a 65-year-tradition and decreed that snowboarders will be allowed on Aspen Mountain, a.k.a. Ajax. The decision was all business; the company feared the ban at its flagship mountain was not only stunting Ajax traffic but also scaring boarders away from its three other mountains, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk, all of which allow riders.
The Aspen board ban has been one of the most public, controversial and complex debates in the snow business. Aspen outsiders, from multi-millionaire snowboard tycoon Jake Burton to multi-billion-dollar corporations such as Nike, have weighed in on ending the ban. To get the inside line, we turned to the actual experts, the Aspen residents who prowl the mountain every day, teaching, patrolling and just enjoying the skiing. They know best, and this is what they had to say. Now you be the judge. (The comments were left anonymously on the Aspen Daily News Tipline and printed in the newspaper on Jan. 7.)
"It's just another thing that made Aspen unique. Now Aspen is more like every other place."
"I am unaware of any other mountain in the world that funnels virtually all of its terrain down two gullies and onto a narrow cat track. That's why Aspen is the perfect non-boarder mountain."
"The halfpipe configuration of both (egresses) is an invitation to disaster; it's too tempting for boarders to cross side-to-side. Considering boarders have a blind side, it's not smart."
"As a skier, I think lifting the ban sucks. But as an emergency medicine health care professional, I think it's outstanding. This should be good for business."
"It's not the baggy pants and attitudes that disturb me. It's the congestion and ice in Spar Gulch, it's the boarders sliding sideways straight down Walsh's and the Face of Bell."
"I snowboard and I say Ajax should be closed to boarders."
"Let the riders on Ajax, but put a snowboard park at the bottom of Little Nell. This will keep them off the rest of the mountain."
"I guess we have to leave the valley to find a boarder-free mountain, sort of like finding a smoke free-restaurant."