No Mardi Gras mambo on this Presidents Day, but bookings solid
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Friday marks the start of Presidents Day weekend, which traditionally brings a slew of visitors to Aspen and Snowmass Village for a three-day party featuring great snow, awesome music and fine food.
Local businesses can expect a solid holiday weekend, but officials say it won’t be as busy as last year’s Presidents Day extravaganza, which coincided with local Mardi Gras celebrations. Last year, Presidents Day fell on Feb. 15 and Fat Tuesday was the day after, giving Aspen-Snowmass tourist-dependent businesses a calendar-boosted bonanza and one of their busiest weeks of the year.
“It’s shaping up to be busy, but not packed,” said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass. He also is the resort’s liaison to the airline industry.
“It won’t be like New Year’s or X Games weekend, and it will be almost like a typical weekend. Some lodging properties are sold out this weekend and others have quite a few rooms available,” Tomcich said.
As of Jan. 31, occupancy rates for Friday and Saturday averaged about 70 percent in Aspen and Snowmass. That average likely has risen since the beginning of this month, Tomcich said, but many rooms and last-minute deals on lodging and ski packages are still available.
“It won’t be quite like the sellout we had last year,” he said.
Occupancy rates at the St. Regis Aspen Resort this weekend should hit 90 percent or higher, a hotel official said Thursday morning.
Richard Stettner, general manager of the 126-room Limelight Lodge in Aspen, said Thursday afternoon that occupancy rates look strong for Friday and Saturday, then tail off on Sunday and Monday, which is the federal Presidents Day holiday. He declined to provide specific details.
Various resort officials said Thursday’s snowfall should help lure more visitors to the area.
“I hope the storm brings some business from the Front Range,” Stettner said. “We’re getting a great dump out there today [Thursday].”
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said all signs are looking positive for the coming weekend.
“It looks to be a better-than-average post-New Year’s weekend,” he said. “It’s a holiday weekend. The occupancy numbers we’re seeing and advance sales of lift tickets and lessons look strong.”
Like Tomcich, he noted that Presidents Day weekend won’t be as busy as it was last year, when it coincided with Mardi Gras on the calendar.
“But we can compare it to this same weekend last year, and say it’s going to be much stronger,” Hanle said. It is expected to be so busy, Skico is calling out employees in non-frontline jobs, asking them to pitch in to help with ski schools, lift tickets and gates.
When Skico does that, it means it’s going to be a busy weekend, Hanle said. Thursday’s snowfall helped, with 5 inches of fresh powder reported for Aspen Mountain, 6-7 inches recorded for Snowmass Village, 6-9 inches logged for Aspen Highlands and a lesser amount measured for Buttermilk.
“We’ve got great snow conditions,” Hanle said. “The storm Thursday was very well timed for the weekend. I think we got more snow out of that than we were expecting.”
To further entertain visitors during the holiday weekend, Skico has scheduled a free outdoor concert for Snowmass Village on Sunday, Hanle said. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will perform at Base Village starting at 4 p.m.
Tomcich pointed out that Buttermilk will host a spectator-friendly event for the holiday: the Rocky Mountain Masters, which features 60 to 70 downhill racers Saturday through Monday in the Tiehack area.
Thursday’s snowfall is not expected to affect many travelers heading into the Aspen area. Tomcich said only three flights into Aspen, all from Denver, were canceled Thursday morning. There were, however, three diversions to Grand Junction – one each from Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles – as well as several flight delays.
More snow is predicted Saturday and Sunday, but Friday’s forecast looks good for those planning to travel into the Roaring Fork Valley, Tomcich said.
Advance bookings for Mardi Gras week, March 6-12, look strong, he added. The Snowmass Mardi Gras celebration is a popular destination among Brazilian tourists, Tomcich said.
Occupancy rates for Mardi Gras are averaging in the 80 percent range while Aspen rates are in the 70 percent range. Fat Tuesday (English for the French “Mardi Gras”) – which is the day before the Catholic fasting day Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season – falls on March 8 this year.
It’s one of the latest dates for Fat Tuesday in recent memory. The popular day of revelry can fall on any date between Feb. 3 and March 9, depending on the date set for Easter, a moveable Christian holiday.
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