Aspen sales pace strong in 2004 |

Aspen sales pace strong in 2004

Janet Urquhart

Aspen expects to end the year with sales tax revenues that are 8 percent ahead of last year – a bigger leap than most other resort towns on the Western Slope.Through October, sales in Aspen were up 7.5 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2003. With World Cup racing over the Thanksgiving weekend – an event Aspen did not host last year – combined with good early snow conditions and the holidays, the city should hit its 8 percent target, according to Paul Menter, city finance director.Wary of getting overly optimistic, though, the City Council initially directed its finance staff to figure no increase in sales tax revenue into next year’s budget, leaving the line item flat compared to 2004. After a look at how other resorts had fared by October and expect to do next year, however, the council plugged a conservative 2 percent increase in sales into its 2005 revenue projections.That’s in line with the expectations at most other resorts, according to a comparison of sales tax projections in 13 other communities. The data was compiled by Randy Ready, assistant city manager in Aspen.Aspen is outpacing most of the other communities in the comparison, which included a sampling of ski resorts and mountain towns near ski areas.”When things are good here, they’re really good, and when things are bad, they’re bad,” Menter offered by way of explanation.”We’re in an upswing and we have a bigger economy than most of those places,” he added. “Vail is probably the only place that has an economy that’s as big as ours.”Aspen’s taxable retail sales through October totaled $327.6 million; Vail’s totaled $310.7 million, according to its finance office.Basalt, which is projecting a 10 percent increase in sales tax revenues by the end of this year, is forecasting another 4 percent boost next year. Durango expects to end the year with a 9 percent increase in sales tax revenues, compared to 2003, and is budgeting a 5 percent hike in 2005.Dillon is projecting a 4 percent increase this year, though it expects to end this year with less than a 1 percent gain in sales tax revenues, compared to 2003. Nearby Frisco expects a 3.5 percent increase this year and has budgeted a 1.5 percent hike next year.Among other ski resorts, Winter Park is projecting a flat year for sales tax revenues in 2004 and 2005; Vail is projecting a 3 percent gain in 2004, but a 2.6 percent drop in 2005 due to redevelopment work at the resort.Steamboat Springs is expecting a 4 percent jump over 2003 sales tax revenues and is looking for a 2.2 percent increase next year. Breckenridge expects a 3.8 percent increase by the end of this year and is forecasting a 2 percent increase in 2005, according to the comparison prepared by Ready.Silverthorne, home of the factory outlet malls, is projecting a 1.5 percent increase by the close of this year and a 1.1 percent next year; Avon expects to end the year up 3.4 percent and anticipates a 2.4 percent increase in sales tax revenue in 2005.Aspen sales were tracking at 6.6 percent above last year’s pace through the end of August; sales for that month alone were down 1.4 percent. However, sales rebounded significantly in September – up 20 percent – and Aspen closed the first three-quarters of the year with sales activity up 7.7 percent.”I don’t think those other communities have as much in the fall as we do,” observed Mayor Helen Klanderud, noting Aspen’s performance compared to other resorts.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is


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