Too many intoxicated skiers lead SkiCo to institute a drink limit
Because some patrons have taken imbibing to new heights at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands, they’ve been cut off.
Aspen Skiing Co. last week instituted a three-drink maximum and removed liquor from the menu, leaving beer and wine as the only alcoholic beverages available at the on-mountain restaurant situated at 10,740 feet.
That means no more shooters of Obstler Schnapps that the European restaurant was known for, along with the late-afternoon parties that often included patrons dancing on the table tops. Now, the check is dropped off at 3:30 p.m. and patrons are asked to be gone by 4 p.m.
Three-hour drinking lunches have translated into people having to be taken down the mountain by ski patrol via snowmobile because they were too drunk to ski down safely by themselves.
“Given the mid-mountain location, we’ve gotten to be concerned about the safety of our guests,” said SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle. “We’re up on the mountain and we have to operate it responsibly.”
He added that the three-drink maximum is an internal guideline and Cloud Nine general manager Andreas Fischbacher will make the judgment call if a patron is able to handle his or her alcoholic intake beyond the new limit.
But Fischbacher said he plans to stick to the three-drink max because it’s related to the number of drinks that meets the threshold of the state’s legal limit to operate a motor vehicle.
“We certainly don’t want people skiing intoxicated,” he said.
He noted that the full bar will be offered during the evening when the restaurant serves Thursday dinners and patrons are taken up and down the mountain via snowcat.
Fischbacher said he’s received mixed reactions to the curbing of the alcohol but by all appearances, people still were having fun this past weekend.
“I understand people will get upset,” Hanle said, noting there were patrons on Saturday who expressed their appreciation for the lower-key atmosphere.
Since Cloud Nine opened in 1998, it’s become an early aprés-ski hot spot and each year it gets closer to living up to its name, which is a term that refers to reaching “a state of total euphoria.”
“It was good while it lasted,” Fischbacher said of the partying nature of guests.
There was no particular incident or impetus for instituting the limit other than “it was time,” according to Hanle.
“It’s been discussed before,” he said. “This is not about not letting people have fun,” Hanle said of the new rules, but rather for their own safety.
One patron who asked not be identified and has a partner who’s been taken down on snowmobile a couple of times, said “you’ve got to be kidding me” when he learned of the news.
“That’s going to change everything,” the patron said. “I’m very unhappy about this.”
He added that it was standard to go to Cloud Nine, have a three-hour lunch and knock back a few. The patron joked that the Obstler Schnapps sales rep will surely take a financial hit.
He added that he might have to rethink the party of 15 Europeans he booked for late March after they had such a raucous and fun time last year.
For Fischbacher, Cloud Nine is about the gourmet food, which hasn’t changed.
“It started out as having a good meal,” he said. “But the reality is people were endangering themselves.”
In other SkiCo-related news:
The Little Nell plans to launch “The Oasis” on Aspen Mountain with a Veuve Clicquot-branded pop-up champagne bar. Marking Veuve Clicquot’s annual celebration of winter, Clicquot in the Snow, The Oasis will host guests for flutes of champagne and views of Aspen from 11,000 feet.
The bar will feature umbrellas, lounge chairs, a solar-powered sound system and other features.
To make it more interesting, guests will receive clues to find the secret location of the mobile bar. For clues to The Oasis’ location, guests should follow The Little Nell on Twitter @TheLittleNell or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheLittleNellAspen . A new cell phone repeater on top of Aspen Mountain will provide guests with ample service to track the bar’s location from the slopes. Guests should expect the bar to “pop up” over President’s Day weekend and continue throughout weekends in March.