Bad economy has its upside in Aspen |

Bad economy has its upside in Aspen

ASPEN ” If there is a silver lining in the dark economic clouds hovering over Aspen, it is the precipitation falling from the sky.

Business officials on Tuesday said they plan to capitalize on what they are calling “a perfect storm” of circumstances that they can’t control but are realizing in Aspen this season ” cheap airfares, availability of lodge rooms and airline seats, and abundant snowfall.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to market the resort,” said Bill Tomcich, president of central reservations booking firm Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Tomcich pointed out to the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors on Tuesday a couple of specials that are being promoted to further that effort.

The “Perfect Storm Package” gives visitors through Feb. 19 a free night of lodging, a free lift ticket, a free day of equipment rental, with the purchase of four days of those offerings.

The “Free Flight, Free Night, Free Day” offers guests who book a minimum four-night package with lift ticket, lodging and one airfare to Aspen/Snowmass on Frontier Airlines a free flight, free night of lodging and free lift ticket.

“If we didn’t have those packages we wouldn’t have the business we have today,” Tomcich said of current bookings. “People are booking at the last minute, and they are coming.”

Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry said inexpensive airfares are saving the resort this winter, and advanced reservations are outpacing the Christmas and New Year’s week.

“It’s Christmas in January, and it’s helped,” he said, adding Aspen has never been in a better position to market to guests given the “perfect storm” of factors.

“And they are all working out tremendously,” Perry said.

Tomcich cited a recent report that as of Dec. 31, Aspen came in No. 1 for the most lodge bookings and Snowmass came in No. 2, compared to 15 other ski resorts. He added that last weekend’s X Games and the resort’s international travelers helped those numbers.

“We had a kind of January that most would be enviable of,” Tomcich told the ACRA board.

ACRA board member and Aspen Square Condominiums General Manager Warren Klug said he is attempting to protect “rate integrity” in the middle of it all.

“Will somebody pay full price?” he joked. “Everyone who calls is expecting a special deal.

“We’re trying to hang in there.”

Perry said in light of real estate sales being down 40 percent in 2008, it’s a mistake to believe that Aspen’s economy is primarily based on real estate and not on the ski industry.

“We are a ski town, and tourism drives real estate,” he said, adding he looks to government officials to be leaders through tough economic times and make bold decisions to position the resort in the future.

ACRA board member Rick Jones said he remembers the economic downturn after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made local businesses and governments address their inefficiencies.

“It takes a downturn to remember who we are … when we’re fat, people take their eye off the ball,” he said.

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