Last-minute bookings fill up Aspen hotels for the Fourth |

Last-minute bookings fill up Aspen hotels for the Fourth

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – If only the rest of the summer could match the past two weeks.Aspen’s hotels and lodges are full, or nearly so, for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s the second time in two weeks the resort has approached a sellout.”I’m pleased to say things are getting pretty close to full in downtown Aspen,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, at midweek. “It’s thanks to a lot of last-minute bookings – that’s what we hoped would happen.”Since the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival launched the summer season simultaneously on the third weekend of June, various lodging establishments report doing business as usual – which is to say, bookings have been solid.This week’s Aspen Ideas Festival, leading into the Fourth of July weekend, kept various establishments full or nearly so.The past two weeks at the Annabelle Inn on Main Street have been as good as ever despite the recession, said manager Charley Case.”The Ideas Festival has been a boon and for the Fourth, we’ll do great,” said Case, who was predicting a weekend sellout of the lodge’s 35 rooms.The Mountain Chalet’s 60 rooms were sold out for the first four days of July, following on the heels of a Food & Wine weekend sellout and a solid final weekend in June, said general manager and co-owner Craig Melville.The last of The Little Nell’s 92 luxury rooms were booked for the weekend on Thursday morning; the hotel has been close to full all week, reported Justin Todd, director of sales and marketing.”We’re seeing a much shorter and closer booking window than we’ve ever seen in the past,” Todd added. “Last year, I’d say that was the case and this year trumps last year.”Last-minute reservations have become the norm, Tomcich agreed. The resort’s June 1 occupancy report, a forecast based on reservations on the books at the time, indicated Aspen would be 60 percent full for the July 4 weekend. Instead, “it’s going to be pretty close to business as usual around here,” he said. “We were all hoping last-minute bookings would kind of save us.”Rooms with a view of Aspen Mountain – site of Saturday’s planned fireworks display – were getting pretty scarce by midweek, according to Tomcich. Most of the large hotels were sold out.After the traditionally busy July 4 holiday, though, reservations are down, some lodges report.The next resort-wide occupancy report is due out late next week; it will give Tomcich a better picture of what’s ahead.August looked like “a big hole” in the June 1 report, he said.”The rest of the summer is definitely looking quieter,” Melville said. “I expect that in the end, we won’t be down too much.”The Annabelle Inn is doing well with weekend bookings throughout the rest of the summer, but weekday nights will be slower than usual, Case predicted.Bookings for the remainder of the summer are off the usual pace at The Little Nell, said Todd. The hotel is offering enticements though – the fourth night free for those who book three nights during the heart of the summer season, and the third night free after the Aspen Music Festival ends, from Aug. 23 through Sept. 7, he said. The good news, said Tomcich, is travelers appear to be vacationing, though they’re not locking in rooms weeks or months in advance. And, it appears Aspen will be able to accommodate them.”I think there’s reason for optimism,” Tomcich