Aspen still has lodging for Pro Cycling Challenge fans
August 14, 2011
ASPEN – Rooms are still available in Aspen for Aug. 24, the day the USA Pro Cycling Challenge rolls into town, but reservable campsites in the area are all taken.
While several local hotel operators predict they’ll be full by Aug. 23 – the night before pro racers take on arguably the toughest stage of the Colorado bike race en route to Aspen – a true accounting of just how big a boost the race brings to the local economy will likely come long after the riders have come and gone.
Occupancy rates for the month of July in Aspen and Snowmass Village were released Thursday by the Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP. Aspen saw its occupancy numbers drop nearly 2 percent last month, compared with July 2010, but the timing of the Aspen Ideas Festival might be to blame for the dip. The festival moved to the week before July 4 this year, so some of the bookings associated with the popular event occurred in June, noted Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.
Snowmass saw an 18.4 percent increase in July occupancy compared with last year, according to MTRiP.
In Aspen, lodging occupancy for the month of August was up 4.5 percent, based on what was on the books by the close of July, while August numbers were up 15 percent in Snowmass, MTRiP reported.
With the bike race about a week and a half away, Aspen’s luxury Little Nell hotel was about three-quarters full, while the Limelight Lodge stood at 87 percent full, according to Sally Spaulding, public relations manager for the Aspen Skiing Co.’s hospitality division. The Skico owns and operates both properties.
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“I tell folks, if they’re interested in coming to Aspen for the race, don’t bank on a walk-in,” Spaulding said.
All lodging establishments in Aspen have devoted a share of their rooms to the event itself, housing racers, support staff and others associated with the tour. Local hotel operators expect interest in their remaining rooms to heat up as race week nears. The Sky Hotel, already more than half full, anticipates a full house, said a spokesperson there.
The Aspen Square Condominium Hotel has not seen a frenzy of reservations for race week so far, though one small group interested in being here specifically for the event has secured lodging, said Warren Klug, general manager.
“I think we’re going to have lots of locals and valley residents up here for it,” Klug said. “As far as the lodging goes, I think it’s going to be last-minute as the excitement builds.”
Organizers say the seven-day event could draw more than 1 million spectators across Colorado. Aspen is the finish line on Day 3, when riders will take on the “Queen Stage,” riding from Gunnison to Aspen over two mountain passes, Cottonwood and Independence. The Aug. 22-28 tour begins in Colorado Springs with a prologue and finishes with a stage from Golden to Denver.
While Aspen’s biggest sporting draw of late – the Winter X Games at Buttermilk – requires a trip to the valley for anyone who wants to see the action firsthand, Coloradans will have many chances to catch the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, given that stages take place around the state. That means no one area will capture all the attention, or all the business.
So, while places like the Days Inn in Carbondale feel the impact of X Games, as of Friday it was less than half full for the nights surrounding the bike race, said manager Ted Miernicki.
“Maybe it’ll pick up here in the next week,” he said.
Budget-minded guests have, however, booked all of the reservable campsites near Aspen on Aug. 23 and 24, though some campgrounds such as Lincoln Gulch and Lost Man on the west side of Independence Pass offer first-come, first-served accommodations.
Collegiate Peaks Campground, near the Cottonwood Pass summit on the Buena Vista side, still had plenty of reservable sites available Friday, though. It is but one of many campgrounds lining Cottonwood Pass, and others are located on the east side of Independence Pass.