Business types say lack of powder not affecting Aspen tourism
The Aspen Times
As is the case during any winter dry period in the Aspen-Snowmass area, there are two schools of thought on the lack of significant snowfall this month.
The first is shared among most local powderhounds who believe the mild conditions are dreadful. They are looking for any slim possibility of snow in the weather forecasts as a sign that the situation is about to take a turn for the better.
The second, shared by many in the business community as well as out-of-state and international visitors, is a glass-half-full outlook. In their view, a fresh dumping would be nice, but the skiing and snowboarding conditions are still quite enjoyable.
The recent weather pattern sparked a few comments at Tuesday morning’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association board meeting.
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“They’re not coming back grousing,” Warren Klug, general manager of Aspen Square Hotel, said of his Australian guests. “They’re saying they’d love to see more snow, but they’re having a good time.”
“People say, ‘The locals are whining and cringing about the lack of snow.’ But that happens. Seven days without snow and the locals think somebody shot their dog,” said Dave Perry, chief operating officer of Aspen Skiing Co.
“The visitors are having a great time,” Perry continued. “I happened to go this past month to five other ski areas around North America. Our conditions and our ‘skiability’ of our mountains is better than anyone’s. I say that honestly and truly, not because I’m biased.”
If there seems to be a slowdown in tourism this week, that’s because there is one. The period between the ESPN Winter X Games, which ended Sunday, and the Presidents Day weekend period, which runs Feb. 13 to 16, is traditionally a lot slower than the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season and the four days of X Games.
This year, Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 17, which likely will make for busier and longer-than-normal Presidents Day weekend business, according to Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass.
Strong winter storms on the East Coast this week, especially in Massachusetts, haven’t affected Aspen-Snowmass tourism, Tomcich said.
“It couldn’t have happened at a better time,” he said. “The fact that it happened on a Tuesday and Wednesday — those are generally offbeat travel days for us and two of the quietest inbound-flight days for us. Obviously, anybody coming out from the Northeast is impacted right now, but I know of a lot of people who were able to move their travels up, including a whole delegation from Food & Wine Magazine who flew out (Monday) to get out ahead of the storm.”
Thankfully for local tourism, Tomcich added, the big East Coast snowstorm that forecasters named “Juno” was publicized well in advance, enabling a lot of travelers to make plans to leave on earlier or later flights this week.
On Tuesday, most flights were canceled at LaGuardia and JFK airports in New York. The storm completely shut down commercial-flight activity at Logan International Airport in Boston, as well. Flights were expected to resume Wednesday.
“The airlines should be able to ramp back up to normal operations fairly quickly,” Tomcich said.
Tomcich said the lack of fresh snow this month hasn’t resulted in cancellations through the Aspen central reservations firm he manages — nor has it noticeably affected call volumes.
He said local ski conditions remain top-notch, thanks to heavy snowfall during the late December holidays, cold nights that have preserved much of that snow and good grooming practices by Skico.
He said he recently returned from Vermont, which has gotten a lot of precipitation lately.
“They’ve got good skiing up there, but when they talk about ice they’ve got real ice up there, not the kind of ice some of the locals are complaining about here,” Tomcich said. “We’ve got nice, firm, grippy hardpack. The skiing is great here right now.”
Last week’s Winter X Games, televised to a national audience, also helped to create the impression that Aspen has gotten a lot of snowfall this year. The scenes from the spectator areas at Buttermilk Mountain in no way suggested mini-drought conditions, local observers said.
The subscription forecasting service AspenWeather.net is not bullish on snowfall this week or next. It suggests a possibility for 1 to 2 inches of snow Friday and Saturday, but confidence is listed as “low.”
“We need a dramatic change or we will just have light events every now and then and snow will be well below normal. I’m still hoping and watching for a key change to the atmosphere,” forecaster Cory Gates said in his email blast Wednesday morning.
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