As summer winds down, Aspen Skiing Co. says business at its shiny, new Snowmass attraction, the Lost Forest, is thriving during its debut.
While Skico does not release numbers per company policy, director of business development Peter Santini said, “Our visitation at Snowmass is up significantly, and the Lost Forest is driving that.”
Noting that Skico still needs to conduct a detailed report of the summer, Santini said, “Our whole goal of the project was to drive more visitation to Snowmass, and I think we’re seeing that.”
The Lost Forest saw more than 1,500 visits from residents in its first week, when season pass-holders could experience the $10 million adventure center at no cost.
“We wanted to get locals up there to check it out, so we were really busy right out of the gate,” Santini said, “and since then business levels have been pretty strong.”
The Lost Forest was packed with more than locals on its inaugural day June 22, with visiting families playing games on the lawn and imbibing on the patio, children running around and bikers passing through the area.
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While the start of school has slowed down business a little as of late, Santini said, “It’s still been pretty busy up there.”
Along with boosting tourism at Snowmass, another objective for Skico was to transform the Elk Camp area into a hub for summer activity.
Altogether, the Lost Forest’s amenities — including the alpine coaster, zip line, ropes challenge course and climbing wall — sprawl about 30 acres around the Elk Camp vicinity, Skico spokeswoman Xanthe Demas said earlier this summer.
The plan also entails 15.1 miles of new bike trails, part of which are still being constructed. More recently, Skico unveiled the upper portion of its new French Press bike trail in mid-July, Santini said. He hopes the lower part of the trail, which spans from the top of the Elk Camp chairlift to mid-station, will open mid-September.
The Snowmass Bike Park experiences “sequential” growth year over year, according to Santini, and this summer is no exception.
Asked what are the Lost Forest’s more popular features, Santini said the alpine coaster “is the most utilized by guests just because of duration and accessibility — it’s an 8-minute activity and anyone can do it.”
Skico opened its 5,700-foot alpine coaster — the only year-round element of the Lost Forest — mid-December in time to celebrate Snowmass Ski Area’s 50th anniversary.
“That said, we’re extremely happy with how the challenge course and climbing wall have been received,” Santini added.
In the Lost Forest’s first month, a temporary 35-foot climbing wall acted as a placeholder while the real wall was in its final stages. The official climbing wall, boasting 14 lanes and a 40 by 60-foot dimension, was completed July 21.
Skico opened the Lost Forest with two admission offerings: an $84 daily rate for adults and a $54 “mini” option for children ages 9 and younger who do not meet the challenge course height and weight requirement.
Based on feedback within the first three weeks of operations, Santini said, the company added a two-day adult admission ticket for $138 as well as a coaster-only ticket priced at $54.
Skico launched the two-day option in an effort to alleviate park-goers’ pressure of completing all of the activities, which can take several hours, in a single day.
“Communicating guest expectations has certainly been one of the challenges,” Santini said of the amount of time one can spend in the Lost Forest and, consequently, the costs associated. “It’s brand new, it’s new to the guests and it’s new to us as operators, so there’s been a lot of learning on that side of things.”
For Skico and White River National Forest officials, the Lost Forest has been a long time coming.
Skico wasted no time in realizing its vision of building an adventure center at Snowmass. The company started construction June 21, 2017 — the day after it secured final approval from the U.S. Forest Service — and opened to the public one year and one day later.
Snowmass was the fifth ski resort in the White River National Forest to pursue a summer recreational plan since Congress passed the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act in 2011.
The conversation, however, started at least a decade ago, beginning with Vail Resorts’ application for an alpine coaster at its ski area.
White River National Forest representatives spent the next few years crafting policy and determining what would be appropriate for its lands. Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin are among other Colorado resorts under the White River National Forest to add on-mountain summer attractions.
The Lost Forest is open daily through Monday; after Labor Day, in conjunction with the Elk Camp gondola, it will operate weekends through Sept. 30.