Holiday crowds boost business in Aspen |

Holiday crowds boost business in Aspen

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
The Clark and Florianic families from Dallas snap a selfie at the top of Aspen Mountain Friday afternoon.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Lodging occupancy is near full, restaurants are booked, the slopes are packed and local shops are slammed.

It’s Presidents Day weekend in Aspen, and despite the city’s latest claim to fame by PR Newswire as the “most expensive destination to spend Presidents Day 2016,” the crowds are coming in hot for this year’s holiday weekend.

In fact, some restaurants say business during Presidents Day weekend is second only to New Year’s Eve.

Campo de Fiori general manager Dave Ellsweig said the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of Presidents Day weekend are “busier than any night over the course of the year, with the exception of New Year’s Eve.”

“My observation is that we are seeing a lot more domestic weekend visitors both this weekend and next.”Bill TomcichPresident, Stay Aspen Snowmass

The Italian eatery is completely booked through next Tuesday, and has been for about three weeks, Ellsweig said.

Just next door to Campo, the upscale French-American restaurant Cache Cache also is booked through the holiday weekend, and has a long wait list of people seeking reservations.

Local stores say traffic is up, like at BloomingBirds, where business was “nonstop” all day Friday, assistant manager Mindy Conflenti said.

Conflenti said the store is always very busy over Presidents Day weekend, with crowds typically pouring in the Thursday before.

Katebaby & KIDS sales associate Amanda Tanaka agreed; the store experienced a significant spike in visitors Friday, more than any other day this week.

With weekend occupancy rates exceeding 90 percent, hotel rooms both in Aspen and Snowmass are nearly sold out, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich.

However, this year’s holiday weekend isn’t quite as busy as last season’s, which Tomcich attributed to the overlap of carnival and Presidents Day weekend last year.

“My observation is that we are seeing a lot more domestic weekend visitors both this weekend and next,” Tomcich said. “But not nearly as many weeklong stays with bazillions of Brazilians like we had this upcoming week last year.”

Like Tomcich, Ellsweig said the crowds he sees in the restaurant over Presidents Day weekend are mostly Americans — often from cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas — and some Brazilians left from Carnival, which ended Wednesday.

Visiting Aspen from Los Angeles for the holiday weekend, Greg Nathan said he usually makes the trek to Aspen twice a year, once during the summer and once in the winter, typically over Presidents Day weekend.

“It’s just an easy trip,” Nathan said. “An hour and 45 minute flight direct, as long as there’s no weather.”

Twenty-three-year-old Grayson Middlebrooks from Atlanta is visiting Aspen for his first time to see a friend from college and experience some “world-class” skiing.

Skiing aside, Middlebrooks’ plans for the weekend include watching The Flaming Lips perform at Belly Up, discovering what Aspen’s nightlife has to offer and “celebrating some presidents.”

Middlebrooks’ friend, also from Atlanta and in Aspen for the first time, said he chose to visit Presidents Day weekend “to experience the Presidents Day weekend ragers.”

And, of course, there are those international visitors in town for the winter season, having nothing to do with the American holiday.

Twenty-seven-year-old Melbourne, Australia, resident Jessica Tyson, in town with her parents, said she is here only to ski, and “didn’t even realize” it was Presidents Day weekend.

“It’s a joy to come here,” Tyson’s mother, Patricia, said. “The people, the snow, the ski, the food — it’s a little wonderland, really.”