Drive-in movies, events set for Buttermilk this summer

Cars socially distance while the Aspen High School graduation ceremony begins at Buttermilk on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Aspen’s new drive-in theater at Buttermilk could be ready for business by July 1.

Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday approved the same parking lot at the ski area used last month for Aspen High School’s graduation festivities as a site for movies and other possible events such as concerts and dance performances in July, August and September.

“I really want to see this happen,” Commissioner Greg Poschman said. “This would allow the public to look forward to something.”

His fellow board members were supportive of the idea, which will start with three events per week and could be adjusted up or down depending on demand.

“I don’t think I realized how much I missed our summer events,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said. “I hope we can expedite this. Anything we can do to move it along safely.”

The movies and other events will be coordinated by Aspen Skiing Co., and will function similarly to graduation, said Deric Gunshor, Skico’s director of event development. The events will accommodate a maximum of 150 cars and could include a possible bike-up pod, he said.

The movies will be shown on a 40-foot-wide screen attached to the now-standing stage, possibly twice a week, and won’t start until dark, he said. That means they will likely take place between about 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sound will be available via FM transmitters issued to each car, he said, so noise will not be a concern.

Cars will be spaced in a checkerboard pattern like at the graduation to allow for better viewing, and Skico wants people to be able to sit outside their cars in roped off areas to view the movies and events, he said. That, however, may not be possible under public health order guidelines, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.

Large vehicles like Sprinter vans will not be allowed, Gunshor said. Attendees also will have to sign up and buy tickets in advance, when they will also be assigned an arrival time to avoid traffic impacts to Owl Creek Road and Highway 82 and conform to public health guidelines, he said.

“We really want to utilize the largest space in the county … to bring people together,” Gunshor said.

Besides movies, about a dozen other local organizations have contacted Skico to use the stage, he said. That includes Jazz Aspen Snowmass, the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet, Crossroads Church and other event promoters and nonprofit organizations, Gunshor said.

An excited Poschman said he’d been awaiting Skico’s proposal and pointed out that other areas are including take-out and delivery food with drive-in events. He also said Buttermilk might not be the only area site for such outdoor events.

“I know Snowmass is talking about it, too,” Poschman said. “I’d like to see it at Two Creeks too.”

Snowmass Tourism officials said last week they are looking into weekly drive-in movies on Fridays and monthly drive-in concerts at the Snowmass Town Park on Thursday nights, in the spirit of the Snowmass Free Concert Series. If approved, the village would have a mobile stage at Town Park and guests would have to stay within their parking space.

Board Chairman Steve Child also was supportive of the Buttermilk proposal.

“I like this as much as Greg does,” he said. “We have to be flexible to make a successful community in trying times.”

Commissioners will periodically review the calendar of events. The Board of Health also will review the proposal at a meeting Thursday.