Mike Kaplan’s Aspen


About Mike Kaplan – CEO Aspen Skiing Company, Aspen, Colorado

Aspen Skiing Company oversees the four mountains of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk around the town of Aspen, Colorado, as well as the hotel division, including The Little Nell hotel, The Residences at the Little Nell and The Limelight Hotel. Mike started with the company in 1993 after spending six years in Taos, New Mexico. After earning an MBA at the University of Denver, he and his wife Laura arrived in Aspen where Mike started in the ski/snowboard school. He spent four years as managing director of the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass, was promoted to VP of ski operations in 1999, Chief Operating Officer in 2005, and to President/CEO in November of 2006.  Mike learned the ski business under the tutelage of the Blake Family, Jean Mayer, and the rest of the crew in Taos, New Mexico, where he worked from 1986-1992.  As predicted by Ernie Blake to Mike during his interview, he met his wife Laura in Taos, while teaching her the finer points of steep skiing technique.  Mike grew up outside of Chicago and spent his youth as a ski racer on the Wilmot Junior Race Team, and two years of high school at Stratton Mountain School.  He is very active in the community as Treasurer of Aspen Community Foundation.  He and Laura have four children. When he’s not out skiing, snowboarding, or chasing kids, you can find him biking, kayaking, fishing, or squeezing in a surf vacation.

How long have you been in the ski industry? 29 years counting a year of grad school, where I still worked on a strategic plan for Taos and managed to still ski about 60 days that winter.

When did you get the ski bug? I was born with it.  My Mom skied while she was pregnant with me, it’s been in my blood ever since.

What inspired you to go into the snow business? Powder, the mountain lifestyle, the people that devote their lives to the sport and the business, and of course, powder.

What are the top five activities that you recommend people do when they come to Aspen for a snow holiday? Ski. Try snowboarding (or vice versa). Hike for some turns, either hike Highland Bowl (45 minutes) or hike to Burnt Mountain (10 minutes). Eat at Cloud 9. Take a lesson, it will open up your mind to what you can do on skis or board and what you want to work on to get better. You’ll also learn where to go when for the best snow, the best food, and the most fun. Demo some new skis that are just right for the conditions. If it’s a powder day, go and get some fat powder skis.  If it hasn’t snowed in a while get some carvers, the equipment makes a difference.

What other places do you recommend people visit in Aspen? The Aspen Art Museum, Wheeler Opera House and Pine Creek Cookhouse.

What are your favourite restaurants in town? Besides Ajax Tavern, element 47 and the Limelight?  Casa Tua, Cache Cache, White House, Matsuhisa, The Meatball Shack.

What are your favourite destinations outside of Aspen? Taos Ski Valley, Alta/Snowbird, Maui, Los Cabos, Mexico.

Is there anywhere in the world you haven’t been, but would love to? Of course!  I still need to ski in South America – Portillo, Valle Nevado, Las Lenas, still need to heli-ski in Alaska.  I need to get to the Dolomites in Italy, and for surf it’s South Africa, Peru, and Tahiti.

What do you think is the ‘finest thing’ about Aspen?  The finest thing to me is that after 22 years of living here, I’m still experiencing “firsts”. For example, I’m still hiking places I’ve never hiked before, skiing trails or at least lines on trails that I’ve never skied before, and meeting new people with new passions that I never knew existed in this community. It’s the vitality and energy here that people either bring with them, or get caught up in, once here that creates this positive, self-sustaining energy level that allows you to connect with friends, family, and yourself in a way you never thought possible.  It’s like a virtuous cycle that allows you to transcend your day to day existence and to see and appreciate things that you used to miss or ignore.  In essence, the more you look, the more you see.

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Helen Hayes
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