The IKON Pass positives


A common sight on the Aspen Snowmass Mountains: an anti-IKON sticker.

We’ve all heard it at one point this season; “The IKON Pass has ruined skiing.” This phrase has been mumbled under people’s breath while waiting in ski lines, said to other locals as we pass each other in the street, or full out screamed in frustration in the privacy of a gondola. But could the IKON Pass be a good thing?

“Uncrowded by design” was the Aspen Ski Company campaign in the early 2000s. It focused on advertising the aspects of skiing that people living in the Roaring Fork Valley have almost come to take for granted: short lift lines, empty ski runs, and the promise that every day will be a great day on the hill.

Flash forward to the 2018-2019 ski year. In order to compete with our neighbor to the east, Vail, SkiCo joins the IKON Pass. IKON is a collection of 39 resorts at which pass holders have the opportunity to ski and visit for a free or reduced cost, making the mountains of Aspen-Snowmass more accessible than ever.

Even though no one is immaculate in their complaining about the “IKON-ers”, their presence might be necessary and even a good thing. We reside in the “Aspen Bubble”, a happy sanctuary in the mountains where the ugliness of the outside world, and even little things like lift lines or overcrowded apres destinations, seem to melt away. Aspenites call themselves cultured and worldly and try to exude an image of utmost tolerance and intelligence when in real life, cannot handle standing in a lift line for more than five minutes. It is high time the Aspen Bubble deflated a little, and the IKON pass was able to help do this in a way that slightly disrupted everyday life without sucking the soul out of the town.  

Now, this is not to say that the IKON pass holders are solely responsible for the 20% increase of skier visits from last year, or the 4% increase from the year previous. In the data reported in early March by Aspen Skiing Company, IKON pass holders accounted for but 9% of all skier visits. The number of local pass holders and users has risen 40% from last season. Could locals be to blame for crowding their precious resorts?

The “IKONization” of the Aspen Resorts teaches a few important lessons for locals: appreciate good things while they are still yours. Minor inconveniences are just that, minor, and to identify as an inclusive town, you must indeed be inclusive.

Many residents, myself included, are guilty of taking liftline free powder days for granted, and of not appreciating the wide open runs or almost empty restaurants. Now that these novelties are more rare, whether from more locals or “IKON-ers”, the community can see how lucky they are to have these memories and find solace in the fact that more people will now be able to share similar experiences.

Like previously stated, the IKON pass is a great start to softly pop the Aspen Bubble. Our collective complaining about more people joining a fun and freeing activity because it causes us inhabitants a minor inconvenience is very Aspen stereotypical, and the addition of more people to our ski slopes should be a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, we’re all just enjoying the outdoors. Just because this is Aspen does not mean everything needs to be perfect, and the IKON pass is a subtle hint as to what life is like outside of the bubble.

If we pride ourselves on our openness to new things and experiences as a town, shouldn’t we embrace the IKON pass newcomers? How can the town be expected to host the Aspen Ideas Festival when we aren’t even open to a few more weekend warriors or families with kids that want to learn how to ski? Even though it’s hard, becoming more open to sharing the goods of our mountains might help make the town a more comprehensive destination.

So while the addition of many new people to our ski slopes is a small hindrance on one’s personal enjoyment of skiing, let’s focus on the positives. Aspen Snowmass may be uncrowded by design, but some things are so good they need to be shared.