If Aspen is a place where the beer flows like wine, Aspen Mountain is now a place where champagne might flow anywhere.
Pitkin County signed off on a portable “champagne sled” bar for the mountain Tuesday, which will serve bubbly to guests on various ski runs.
“What we’re planning on doing is, we had constructed a portable bar that can be towed by snowcat and we are proposing to sell champagne in certain places,” Aspen Skiing Co. attorney David Bellack explained to a bemused board of commissioners.
The SkiCo launched a promotion over the Presidents Day weekend, through The Little Nell hotel and Veuve Clicquot champagne, where skiers could find the moveable bar’s location on social networking sites. But the company hadn’t yet received a liquor license from the county for a portable bar, so it had to be parked at the top of the Ajax Express lift adjacent to the Sundeck.
The county commissioners convened a brief special meeting on Tuesday, where they approved the liquor license application.
Commissioner George Newman opposed the approval, expressing concern about drunken skiing on Aspen Mountain and bewilderment at the SkiCo’s logic.
He noted recent SkiCo attempts to limit alcohol consumption at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, on Aspen Highlands, and concern about the addition of more alcohol on Ajax.
“You’re now offering people an opportunity to have more access to alcohol vis-à-vis a moveable alcoholic sled?” he deadpanned.
He added concern about adding more tipsy skiers to the slopes.
“The three o’clock rush down Spar is challenging enough,” he said.
Bellack argued that the company doesn’t expect skiers to be binge drinking to intoxication at the pop-up bars. And at $15 a glass, the champagne bars will be cost prohibitive for a younger, presumably harder-partying skier demographic, he said.
“I don’t believe this particularly increases the likelihood of someone being impaired,” he said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards, who voted for the champagne sled in a 4-1 tally, said that kind of exclusivity itself was troubling.
“Are you sending out the wrong message about the expense of having fun on Aspen Mountain?” she asked Bellack rhetorically.
Newman also raised concern that the bars would appeal to more affluent, but less-experienced, skiers from lower-elevation areas. But Bellack countered that the skill level of drinkers was not a concern for the company.
“I don’t believe we are particularly appealing to poor skiers,” he said.
Bellack promised that the bar would be roped in, and would have signs warning skiers not to take drinks out of the bar area onto the slope. He said they would have two well-trained bartenders there at all times.
“We don’t have any real expectation that we’re going to make any money on this,” Bellack said. “We’re doing it because it’s fun and it will be a good experience for the guest.”
A press release on the portable bar, officially named “The Oasis,” described it thus: “The stylish pop-up bar will be adorned in the champagne house’s iconic yellow color. The bar will feature umbrellas, lounge chairs, a solar-powered sound system, flags and other eye-catching features that will make The Oasis stand out in the white snow.”