Highlands entices locals with buffet of summer events | AspenTimes.com

Highlands entices locals with buffet of summer events

Naomi Havlen

Aspen Highlands is synonymous with steep skiing in the winter, and the village’s merchants would like the area to be thought of for more than drifting tumbleweed in the summer.For the past three years, the Aspen Highlands Village merchants association has promoted a string of summer activities to convince locals and visitors to discover their shops and bring some life to a plaza devoid of skiers.This summer is no different, but there is a twist. The merchants are capitalizing on Aspen’s congested parking situation by trying to convince people to park in Highlands’ 450 free parking spaces and hop on one of five buses per hour to Aspen.Of course, if visitors happen to stroll through Highlands Village in the process, all the better.Aspen Highlands Village, built between 1998 and 2002, is just up Maroon Creek Road from Aspen’s roundabout and is the base area for Aspen Highlands Ski Area. In addition to retailers located along a large plaza, the village features the Ritz-Carlton Club, 73 luxury residences owned fractionally.During the past three years the village’s merchants association has had some success getting people to come “around the roundabout” to Highlands for summer events. Their Tuesday evening free outdoor movies quickly gathered a following and are again back this summer starting June 28 at 8:45 or dusk with “The Incredibles.”And once again, like in past summers, the merchants themselves are cooperating with the events. Iguana’s Bar and Grill offers live music on Tuesdays before the movie begins, and the Wine Spot offers free wine tastings from 3 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday beginning June 14.Tuesdays at Highlands also include the second outdoor market from 3 to 7 p.m. including Colorado produce, jewelry and maple syrup. “Our goal is to attract locals, because our philosophy is that if locals come, tourists will follow,” said Jeanette Darnauer of Darnauer Group, the marketing and public relations company for the merchants association. “We want people to discover our ambiance, dining and shopping. Because we’re a couple of miles from downtown Aspen, people forget we’re here and we’re constantly waiving the banner.”The group did coordinate with both Aspen and Snowmass so its activities didn’t conflict with other long-standing community events. Thursdays, for example, are quieter at Highlands since there is free music in Snowmass those evenings.Including action-packed Tuesdays, Darnauer said there is a minimum of nine events per week at Highlands this summer.The village is pairing with the Aspen Recreation Center this summer to present Parents Day Out, where parents, for $35 per child, drop children off at the ARC for day-long activities and lunch. In turn, parents receive a punch card for food, drink and shopping specials at Highlands that can be used all that week. The program begins June 27, and kids can be dropped off between 8 and 9 a.m. and picked up between 4 and 5 p.m.Thunderbowl Cafe is offering hot panini sandwiches this summer and boxed lunches for taking to the Maroon Bells, and the Endeavor Internet Cafe and Bar offers free high speed wireless Internet daily.Willow Creek Bistro will have food and wine dinners on alternating Wednesdays, seafood specials on Fridays and a mountainside barbecue on Sundays.Aspen Highlands Village is also bringing back some of its successful special events this summer, like the second annual summer gear swap on July 2, where residents are encouraged to bring their summer gear to sell. In August the Exotic Car Expo will return, featuring more than 40 antique, hot rod and luxury cars on the plaza on Aug. 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.On June 26 the village will host the Aspen Porsche Concours Show, including more than 35 Porsches from the Rocky Mountain Region of the Porsche Club of America. Racing legend and Aspen resident Janet Guthrie will also attend, autographing her new book. The village will have a barbecue celebration on for the Fourth of July from 2 to 6 p.m.The Aspen Artists Cooperative, a gallery featuring local artists’ work in Aspen Highlands Village, is hosting its opening reception on Thursday, July 7, from 4 to 7 p.m. The gallery is also coordinating the second annual Maroon Bells Festival of Color, with artists – from performance to textile – creating their work on the plaza on Sept. 17 from noon to 4 p.m.”It’s not about selling arts, it’s about pure creativity,” said gallery owner West Townsend.The Ritz-Carlton Club will sponsor the second annual JASummer Nights Swing, a benefit for Jazz Aspen Snowmass featuring Ozomatli on Saturday, July 23, at 7 p.m. The benefit dinner and dance is the nonprofit’s only event devoted entirely to raising funds and is expected to raise more than $200,000 for education programing.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail is nhavlen@aspentimes.com