Jazz begins Friday | AspenTimes.com

Jazz begins Friday

Janet Urquhart

Aspen is initiating a marketing blitz to attract visitors to town for the World Cup races on Thanksgiving weekend.

Out-of-town skiers, especially those on the Front Range, are the target of discounted lift ticket/lodging packages designed to kick off the ski season with the kind of bustle normally associated with winter’s busier weekends, according to Jayne Poss, event manager for the World Cup Organizing Committee.

Poss, employed by the Aspen Skiing Co. for her World Cup role, has been making the rounds of the business community to drum up financial support for activities that will coincide with the races planned Nov. 24 and 25 on Aspen Mountain.

She asked for, and received, a $5,000 contribution from city coffers yesterday after describing plans for the weekend to the city council.

Poss is seeking contributions of $5,000, $2,500 or $1,500 from various segments of the business community. Each comes with various perks, like reserved spectator seating, hats and jackets and other enticements. Donations of other amounts are also accepted.

“I have to tell you, the response has been very positive,” she said. “I think the message here is the business community recognizes that our skiing industry is fragile and that we have to maximize all we have to promote skiing in our resort.”

In that same vein, lodging operators have stepped up and donated 1,000 room nights – worth some $175,000 – to accommodate the racers, coaches, officials and media representatives who will come to town for the women’s super G and slalom events. The races will open the 2000-2001 women’s World Cup season.

Poss said she does not yet know how much to expect in total contributions, nor does she have a specific goal in mind.

The money will go toward an expanded carnival that will take place at the gondola plaza on Friday, Nov. 24, along with an awards ceremony for the super G and a fireworks display that evening. On Saturday, Nov. 25, an apres-ski party with live music is planned.

A smaller version of the carnival occurred in conjunction with the men’s World Cup events that Aspen hosted in November 1998. That year, the Skico was scrambling to complete course preparations, and there was little time to launch a full-scale marketing effort, according to Poss.

Now that Aspen has been awarded November World Cup races through 2002 and expects to be an annual stop on the circuit thereafter, the event has become the focus of a concerted effort to market the town, according to Poss.

“We want to make this a truly memorable weekend. We want it to be a weekend that we can sell year after year,” she said.

Not only is it a chance to bring tourists to town, the races put Aspen in the spotlight internationally. Coverage of the races reaches an estimated 16 million viewers, including, presumably, tourists who are making their travel plans for the upcoming ski season, she said.

“It reminds viewers that Aspen/Snowmass is open for business, and it highlights Aspen as a skier’s resort,” she said.

For the two race days, Aspen Classic Pass holders will ski free, according to Poss. The pass is sold locally and across the state.

The lodging/lift ticket deals involve a range of lodging accommodations, from the luxurious to the moderately priced. The idea is to fill up the town for what has traditionally been a slow weekend.

Packages now being marketed range from deals like $69 per person per night, including lift tickets, at the L’Auberge Club Cottages and $62 per person at Aspen Mountain Lodge to $138 per person with lift tickets for two at the North of Nell. Most of the lodging deals are based on double occupancy.

“It’s a great package. We’re anticipating we’ll get a very good response,” Poss said. “I can’t imagine anyone not coming.

“My biggest fear is it gets so successful that [lodges] say, `Sorry, we can’t give you rooms for the racers, we’re all booked up,'” Poss said.

This year’s races in Aspen will feature the awarding of the Bingham Cup – the women’s equivalent of Aspen’s Roch Cup – for the first time since 1988, according to Poss. The Bingham Cup will be presented to the winner of the super G.

U.S. Olympic super G gold-medalist Picabo Street and Aspenites Katie Monahan and Alex Schaffer are expected to compete for the cup, Poss said.

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