JAS to explore Buttermilk as 2021 Labor Day Experience venue with Snowmass’ blessing
Snowmass Town Council members Monday expressed consensus on allowing Jazz Aspen Snowmass to explore the base of Buttermilk Ski Area as a potential 2021 Labor Day Experience venue.
During a 50-minute work session discussion, Jim Horowitz, president and CEO of JAS, and Andrea Beard, senior vice president, emphasized that no matter where the three-night Labor Day weekend music festival is held, JAS is committed to keeping a strong partnership with Snowmass Village, namely as its No. 1 lodging choice for attendees.
The JAS officials also rehashed the nonprofit’s position that it doesn’t want to move the Labor Day Experience from Snowmass Town Park but it can’t ignore the fact that the staple summer festival has outgrown the current village venue.
“What we’re asking today is really just your permission to explore other options, we’re not saying today ‘Hey, we’re out of here, we’re leaving,’” Beard said. “We just want to in good faith ask for your permission to explore Buttermilk or other areas.”
This past September, JAS released a statement confirming its interest in potentially moving the Labor Day Experience to Buttermilk.
Three months later, JAS attended a Snowmass Town Council meeting in response to the statement and to discuss both the myriad challenges it faces at the Town Park venue each summer and what it would take to rectify them.
Some of those challenges include limited venue capacity for future growth, mass transportation to and from Town Park and parking limitations, partially stemming from the success of the Labor Day Experience year after year, as previously reported.
“The natural limitations of (Town Park) has put us into a box that we have had a very, very difficult time getting out of,” Horowitz said, adding that the box includes running out of tickets and not being able to respond to tremendous demand for big artists because of venue constraints.
On March 4, JAS submitted a request to the town of Snowmass Village formally asking for permission to explore the Buttermilk move.
If JAS finds Buttermilk to be a more feasible venue option than Snowmass Town Park, it would still seek sponsorship with Snowmass Village, including advertising the town as its preferred lodging partner; giving Snowmass lodges the exclusive right to bundle tickets at the early bird discount pricing with lodging for the entire sales period; a promotional tent for Snowmass Village at the festival; and more marketing for the village to help drive attendees there for the holiday weekend.
The request also includes potential marketing and promotional opportunities like a “glamping” or luxury camping experience for Labor Day Experience attendees at Snowmass Town Park, mountain biking competitions in conjunction with the festival and “JAS After Dark” concerts at The Collective or on the Village Mall on Friday and Saturday over the Labor Day weekend — if the festival moves to Buttermilk.
Although Horowitz and Beard said JAS hasn’t really started studying the feasibility of hosting the 2021 Labor Day Experience at Buttermilk, both said it has much more of two elements key to the continued success and future growth of the festival than Snowmass Town Park: acreage and accessibility.
While an up-to-date study and architectural drawing of the potential venue needs to be done, Horowitz and Beard referenced the success of the one year the Labor Day Experience was at Buttermilk: 2002, featuring Bob Dylan and an estimated crowd of 11,000 to 12,000 people.
The Snowmass Town Park venue has a set 10,000-person capacity and has sold out one to two of the three festival days by early July every year for the past four years.
In 2021 and beyond, Horowitz and Beard believe the Buttermilk base has the potential to hold 13,000 to 15,000 people, and to be more accessible to more attendees by bus, car, bike and foot.
“We love JAS, we’d like JAS to stay in the village but at the end of the day we understand there are financial considerations JAS needs to look at and if they’d like to shop around to see if there are other facilities that could better suit their long-term needs we understand that,” Town Manager Clint Kinney said.
A draft letter to JAS formally approving its request to study Buttermilk’s potential as the 2021 Labor Day Experience venue was presented to Town Council at the Monday work session. Kinney asked for some direction on whether the contents of the letter were acceptable.
Most council members expressed understanding and agreement with JAS’ desire to explore other venue options, but Councilman Tom Good said he felt the request treats the village as “second string.”
“You’re looking for another venue and you still want Snowmass’ support, I really have a hard time with this,” he said. “It’s the old saying of you want your cake and to eat it but you want to keep us on hold.
“I’m not a fan of that.”
Horowitz and Beard said that’s not the case and that JAS feels the Labor Day Experience isn’t possible without partnering and working closely with Snowmass Village officials no matter where the festival is located.
“What we’re proposing is not a change in our relationship with Snowmass,” Horowitz said, if the Labor Day Experience moves venues. “Our history with Snowmass, everything that’s happened, we have no desire to unspool that if our concert over Labor Day ended up on the moon or Buttermilk or Carbondale or whatever. JAS is Jazz Aspen Snowmass, that doesn’t change.”
Council agreed to Kinney’s letter accepting JAS’ request, with Goode being the only council member voicing disapproval. The letter will be sent to JAS this week.
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Highway 82 over Independence Pass is closed Tuesday morning for safety reasons after an overnight snowstorm, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.