ASPEN INDOOR AND COVID-19
The winter season has come to a sudden end due to Covid-19 virus. It’s not only the case in alpine countries but also in our own lowlands. Here the season takes even longer than in the mountains. The second part of our national competitions takes place in in the spring, when most real ski areas already closed. Hence it’s time to inform how the indoor slopes are processing this crisis. We had the chance to have an honest and open interview with Yves Champagne from Aspen Indoor in Antwerp.
Is it necessary to stay operational behind the scenes, so mechanics don’t get stuck by frost?
Locking down an indoor slope is more or less like closing your summerhouse at the ocean. You need to prepare it for a winter sleep of a few months. It takes a couple of days, as the heating and cooling systems need to be in conservation. Refrigerators and freezers need to be empty and a good cleaning service is needed. Finally, we covered all things to ensure that we find everything back in the best possible condition.
Could you take measures to reduce the energy cost?
To get through this lockdown in an ecological and economically responsible way, we took this opportunity to test our system to the limit. How long could Aspen really turn off the cooling system before real problems show up? In the meantime we know the answer.
10 days we could turn off the cooling system before the floor temperature went from -18 to -5 degrees celsius. It proves again the exceptional isolation capacity that Aspen has. At this time, we are very happy that we made these sustainable choices during the structure.
Once this was stabilized, we only need to cool during the night. This reduces energy consumption by up to 70%.
Is Aspen using this lockdown to do some maintenance for which there was no time during the high season?
No we don’t. The summer season is coming and we scheduled all maintenance work for this period. The Aspen crew is now “enjoying” a well deserved but forced break.
Did the slope get new snow?
We just renewed the snow during the winter, so there is no need for this. From the moment we get a date for reopening we need approximately 5 days to get everything in perfect shape.
High season was running to its end, bud did you still had a lot of booking for ski or snowboard courses?
At the moment from the lockdown we still had 1500 bookings.
How did you solved this problem? Where there a lot of people that didn’t understand the situation and demand a refund?
We contacted all people in person and put there credits back to the “my Aspen” account. At Aspen every reservation is done by our online platform which gives us the possibility to digital return there value. This way they can use their credits at any time free of choice. The demand for a refund is not relevant, since government policies are the same for everyone. We do offer customers the opportunity to use their credits in whatever product they want from our range.
What about season pass and ski teams?
It’s too soon to tell something about specific solutions to this matter. Of course we will start a dialogue with the clubs to find the right way to compensate for the lost skiing time.
Did you still have a lot of events, competitions planned for the summer?
Yes, we did. All events, competitions, business happenings and school trips are canceled. Luckily, most organizations are making requests for a new date later this year.
Is there a timing or exit strategy to open Aspen again?
Considering the communication skills of our government, I am not positive.
In which branch are we? In Belgium there are three indoor slopes, so there is no mention of any kind of sector consultation. Depending on the measure issued I will undoubtedly take the initiative for a common position.
Suppose there is a reopening, will there be a difference for freeskiing, private ski class or club trainings?
Probably, for clubs, there is a separate legislation and of course we have to respect this. My personal idea is that we can open the ski area before the bars and restaurant industry. But be honest… what is club life if we can’t have a drink and chat afterward.
Is a company like Aspen Indoor legally dividend in 2 parts like sport/recreation and restaurant industry? And will this play a part in the exit strategy?
Aspen Indoor has 3 join committees. The idea for 1 clear rule is utopic. We think we will be able to sport again before we can open the catering part. But it makes things complicated. Imagine, during summer camps it will not possible for the children to eat their lunches or have there 4 o’clock break. Conclusion… we have still a lot to think about before we can start again.
How do you see the summer? All big international sports events have been canceled, as far I know you guys also had plans with some of the major events…
Yes it’s true and for sure it is not positive for us. Like the last football world cup we’re also going to host a fan village. Very nice to have in a period when ski activity is very low. But unfortunately!
The government called in some special arrangements for companies, do they give you enough oxygen to survive this crisis without permanent damage?
The measures are really vital! The suspension of credit and economic unemployment are the most important. But even then we still have a monthly cost of 50.000 euro. That adds up really fast… we had a lot of luck it was already the end of the season, otherwise the damage would be irreparable.