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Business is up for World Cup

Janet Urquhart

It won’t be crowded in Aspen this weekend, but it will certainly be busier than it was at this time last year, if lodge bookings are any indication.

Aspen’s strategy for an early-season tourism boost, fueled by World Cup racing on Thanksgiving weekend, appears to be working, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Aspen Central Reservations.

His agency had booked 375 room nights for the month of November by Wednesday morning – about 90 percent of them for this weekend. That’s up from 225 room nights in November by the same time last year.

“We’re actually up 67 percent over last year’s pace,” he said.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s weekly occupancy report issued last week indicated a significant jump in bookings over Thanksgiving week a year ago – from 30 percent occupancy last year to 45 percent this year. The report is based on a survey of 11 lodges, hotels and vacation condo complexes.

In conjunction with women’s World Cup racing today and Saturday on Aspen Mountain, lodging deals are luring in early-season business. Visitors can stay in Aspen for as little as $59 per person per night, including lift tickets, through Dec. 1, according to Tomcich.

And then there’s the snow – a critical component that was missing at this time last year.

“It’s hard to tell how many people are attracted by the event versus the snow conditions versus the special offers associated with the event,” Tomcich said. “My guess is it’s all three.”

Tomcich expects this month to play out as Aspen’s best November in at least five years or so.

“The 375 room nights is not a lot,” he conceded. “It’s nothing compared to a big weekend in July or January or February, but it’s going to be a whole lot busier than it was this weekend last year.”

Two years ago, when Aspen hosted men’s World Cup racing in November, Aspen Central Reservations had booked 401 room nights by two days before the races – slightly more than this year.

“A few more reservations today [Wednesday] and we’ll close that gap,” Tomcich said.

The Aspen Skiing Co. envisions making Aspen a regular Thanksgiving stop on the World Cup tour, giving the ski season something of a jump-start.

The company gave up its March spot on the race circuit after the 1994-95 season, reasoning that the town is better able to accommodate the racers and the races themselves during the quiet early season.

Expanded activities for the public in conjunction with the races, like today’s White Carnival and tomorrow’s salsa street party, both at the Gondola Plaza, are partly intended to boost the visitor experience, according to Kerry Brennan, Skico event marketing manager.

With the promise of yearly Thanksgiving weekend fun and ski racing, visitors will hopefully decide they want to come back, she said.

The Skico was airing ads late last week on CNN in the Denver market, boasting the fun and deals to be had in Aspen this weekend.

“We’re definitely hoping to get some people who say, `Hey, let’s go to Aspen for the weekend,'” she said.


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