No snow, no problem: Party on at Snowmass this weekend for 50th | AspenTimes.com

No snow, no problem: Party on at Snowmass this weekend for 50th

Five decades to celebrate, more than 12,000 lift tickets purchased to ski at Snowmass on Friday and less than 100 acres of open terrain.

Snow or shine, the party is on at Snowmass this weekend — the question is, who all will join?

According to the latest report (Nov. 30) from central bookings agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, occupancy in Snowmass Village on Thursday and Friday is projected at 71 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

Friday and Saturday represent peak occupancy over Snowmass' 50th anniversary weekend, Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich said Tuesday, while Saturday and Sunday is anticipated at 52 and 43 percent.

However, these projections do not reflect recent lodging cancellations (likely due to the lack of snow), which Tomcich said Tuesday "started late last week."

"I'm sure the (lodging) properties have seen some additional cancellations since the 30th of November," he said, "because I know (Stay Aspen Snowmass) has."

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As of Tuesday afternoon, Skico had 93 acres (2.8 percent) of open terrain at Snowmass Ski Area with no plans of opening more before the anniversary weekend because of warm temperatures in the forecast. On average, about 40 percent of the 3,332-acre mountain is open by mid-December, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of communications Jeff Hanle has previously said.

"What we're letting people know is (that) if you're going to come, come to have a good time. Don't come for optimal skiing," Hanle said Monday. "Certainly go up and ski a couple runs, but there are going to be a lot of alternate activities on the mall and Base Village — with DJs at multiple locations starting at 11 a.m. — and the mountain coaster," which opened to the public Dec. 10.

Skico announced that those who bought $6.50 lift tickets for Friday at Snowmass now may hang onto them and use their pass during the last week of Snowmass' ski season in April. Skico is also allowing people who purchased the $6.50 pass to refund the ticket or transfer that credit toward a ticket (currently $135 for a one-day pass) to Aspen Mountain on Friday, Hanle said.

As of Tuesday, Tomcich said the bookings agency "has seen a couple dozen reservations canceled thus far," adding, "it's a moving number."

"My guess is we'll probably get more cancellations," Tomcich said of the days leading up to Snowmass' big weekend.

Altogether, Tomcich said the number of cancellations to date is "definitely noticeable but not significant" and represents "less than 2 percent of the total revenue we have on the books for December."

Further, projected occupancy in Snowmass Village this Friday and Saturday is still notably stronger than last year, which was recorded at 39 percent and 45 percent on Dec. 15-16, 2016, according to Tomcich.

Hanle said they "haven't had a lot of people calling and asking for refunds" on the $6.50 lift ticket to ski at Snowmass on Friday. Skico had sold more than 12,000 by mid-November and suspended online sales.

Based upon Skico's information from pass purchasers as well as what Hanle has heard anecdotally, he said "most of the $6.50 lift tickets were bought in Colorado from people on the Front Range and (from) other ski resorts."

"What we're hearing, just sort of second-hand, is that people are still coming, but we don't know," Hanle said Monday, adding, "I'm judging on the lack of call volume (at Skico) that people are still coming."

"We don't get the sense that people are coming here (just to ski) this weekend," he said.

Some Skico supervisors have also requested their employees to not ski at Snowmass on Friday, in an effort to alleviate crowding as best as possible.

"We wouldn't encourage our employees to go out there and add to the chaos," Hanle said.

Maggie Harwood of Denver is one of those Front Rangers who Skico hopes will visit Snowmass this weekend for fun.

Despite lackluster snow as of late, Harwood said she "officially committed" to the trip two weeks ago when she submitted her time-off request to the school she works at as a special-education teacher.

"I haven't even really looked at the snow report, I'm just going for fun," Harwood, 24, said Monday night. "If there was more snow I'd use my Mountain Collective pass for one day, but instead I'm saving it.

"So the $6.50 ticket is perfect for me."

While there's no way to predict how many thousands of visitors will swarm the village this weekend, businesses along the Snowmass Mall on Monday reported more or less the same sentiment: starting Friday it's all hands on deck.

At Venga Venga Cantina and Tequila Bar, manager Chris Anderson said all hired staff members are working over the anniversary shenanigans.

"Obviously it'll be hard to go from a slow start to one of the biggest days probably all year," Anderson said, "but we're ready for a fun weekend, for sure. I think the lack of snow is just going to make everybody want to eat and drink more."

"From what I've heard, I think people are going to come just for the party," echoed New Belgium Ranger Station general manager Wendy Harris. "We're just super psyched and we're ready to party."

Reed Lewis, owner of 81615 and Daly Bottle Shop on the mall, said the liquor store would have extra hands to help with beer tastings over the weekend.

"I think a lot of people are coming back to hang out with old friends, visit the resort, see what changes have happened and to have a good time," said Lewis, a Snowmass Village resident of more than 20 years. "It's going to be a great weekend regardless (of the snow)."

erobbie@aspentimes.com