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February 22, 2013
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Snowmass Tourism director resigns at end of decade-long tenure

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Susan Hamley, director of Snowmass Tourism, announced Wednesday that she is resigning from her position, effective April 15.

Hamley was the first marketing director hired by the marketing and special events board in 2003, shortly after its creation. During her tenure, the department has grown to 13 staff members and has instated many of the special events and marketing programs in Snowmass Village today, including the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest.

Hamley called her decision "bittersweet."

"I like to step back at milestones," she said, talking about her 10-year anniversary. She felt it was time to move on, "for myself and for the Village."

"I really am passionate about bringing tourism here," she said. "It's important to bring in some new viewpoints."

The board was created in 2003 after voters approved a tax to support marketing and special events. The marketing director position was also supported by that tax, and out of 300 applicants, Hamley was offered the job, according to The Aspen Times.

Group sales was eventually merged into the marketing and special events board, and it became a facet of what the tourism department does, as well. Snowmass Tourism, a nontraditional tourism bureau in that it is under the umbrella of town government, now has 13 staff members. Hamley reports to Town Manager Russ Forrest administratively, but also gives progress updates to and receives feedback from the Marketing, Special Events and Group Sales Board, as it is now called.

Hamley, who started the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest in 2004, said special events are among her proudest accomplishments during her tenure. The chili and beer festival this year is getting a new name, the Snowmass Mammoth Festival; a new location in Town Park, and more bands on its schedule, as well as a new producer in Steve Gumble Productions.

Hamley said it was good to "watch it grow through the years to where it's headed now."

She's not concerned about handing over the reins on it, either.

"Our talented team is so passionate and committed, they'll do a great job with it," she said. "It's all in motion now (anyway). It's moving; it's happening."

She says it will probably take longer than the first year for the festival to see a higher return on investment.

"It's well-positioned to really grow," she said. "My long-term vision is we'll have two really good bookends (to summer)."

Summer tourism poses a particular challenge in Snowmass. Hamley said the town has made a slight increase in how much of its income is drawn from the summer season, but also said, "I think a lot of us would like to be further along."

Hamley considers the partnerships Snowmass Tourism has developed - such as with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Aspen Skiing Co. and Stay Aspen Snowmass - to be one of its biggest successes in the past 10 years.

"It's the strong partnerships we've developed as Aspen/Snowmass: everyone believing and acting in the interest of this broader umbrella and collaborating to make programs that are more powerful than if we went our own ways," she said.

Town Manager Russ Forrest said big changes have happened during Hamley's 10 years of leadership. Snowmass Tourism has gone from being just her in 2003 to "a pretty sophisticated marketing program," he said.

"She's an incredibly hardworking employee," Forrest said. "She's that type of individual, very committed. You need to tell her to take a vacation."

Forrest said Snowmass Village's revenue is stronger than some other resorts, and a lot of that is thanks to Hamley.

"A lot of focus has been on what does that entity (Snowmass Tourism) do to buck the trends of a down economy," he said. "When we were looking at how we're pacing compared to other resorts ... we were actually doing better from a sales tax standpoint."

Snowmass Village's sales tax revenue increased by 6.1 percent in 2012, according to the Snowmass Sun.

Forrest said Hamley's position will need to be filled, but that some discussion also needs to occur around whether the town wants to keep the department structured as it is. Hamley will remain at the helm of Snowmass Tourism until the end of ski season.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 22, 2013 03:09PM Published Feb 22, 2013 02:51PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.