It’s nearly June: Time to plan a ski vacation |

It’s nearly June: Time to plan a ski vacation

Skis are stashed in closets and pasty flesh is turning tan, but somewhere out there, people are planning next winter’s ski vacation.

In Aspen/Snowmass, lodge operators and the Aspen Skiing Co. are hoping the local resort is fresh in their minds. Coming off a week in April that brought roughly 1,000 people to town for the Mountain Travel Symposium, some local lodging properties are already reporting an upturn in interest from national and international tour operators. Those are the folks who arrange ski vacation packages ” often well in advance of the actual skiing.

The annual symposium gives ski destination representatives one-on-one face time with tour operators and ski clubs. Hosting the event presumably gives a resort a distinct advantage, and this year’s assemblage brought record attendance to Aspen/ Snowmass.

“The fact that it was hosted here in Aspen was just a coup … I’m sure it’s going to pay off for us, long-term,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Many resort players, such as the Skico, are regular attendees of the symposium, but places like the Mountain Chalet participated for the first time, since it came to the local lodge’s back yard.

The contacts are already paying off, according to Stan Hajenga, general manager. The Mountain Chalet is hearing from ski clubs, tour operators and travel agents who familiarized themselves with the resort and the lodge during their visit.

“Even though we think it’s a long time ’til winter … some had already committed for next winter,” Hajenga said. “They’re looking at the next winter [2006-07] for a place to go.”

“Definitely, we’ve been getting ski clubs looking to book next winter,” said Marcia Goshorn at the Molly Gibson Lodge. “We’ve got some weeks next winter that are already sold out.”

She attributes some of the business to the symposium, which gave travel industry players a firsthand look at an Aspen they may not have realized existed. Plenty of them did walk-through tours of the 52-room Molly Gibson along with other properties, getting a feel for the resort’s variety of lodging options.

“They realized that Aspen isn’t just for the rich. That was the one thing I heard a lot from people,” Goshorn said.

The Gant, a host of symposium events, also expects to land business from attendees, according to Elise Defor, director of sales and marketing at the condo property.

“I definitely think having it in Aspen was a benefit,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot more inquiries from ski clubs. I think that seeing Aspen put it in their minds as a possible destination.”

For the Skico, a presence at the symposium is but one component of a broad marketing and sales campaign. So business that is directly attributable hosting the event this year may be difficult to track, said Kris McKinnon, managing director of worldwide sales for the Aspen Skiing Co.

By next spring, though, she’s hoping to look back on a season of increased group sales.

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