Return of World Cup boosts holiday weekend bookings | AspenTimes.com

Return of World Cup boosts holiday weekend bookings

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

In terms of bringing in visitors to Aspen and Snowmass Village, Thanksgiving weekend doesn't rate all that high.

But with women's World Cup activity returning to Aspen Mountain on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, local tourism officials expect business to be a little better compared with the same weekend last year.

Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, said that last year on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, Aspen hotels and lodges realized an overall occupancy rate of more than 30 percent. Advance bookings suggest that local hotels will come close to doubling that figure on Friday night.

However, it should be noted that many of the rooms this weekend are being discounted or provided for free to World Cup athletes, their support crews and others associated with the event, Tomcich said.

So while more people will be in town compared with last year, lodging facilities aren't expected to see a corresponding increase in revenue.

"Things are looking really good with the World Cup back this year," Tomcich said Wednesday afternoon. "It looks like the number of rooms occupied this upcoming weekend compared to the same weekend last year is going to be close to double. We were approaching 50 percent occupancy as of about one week ago."

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Aspen Skiing Co. already has opened Aspen Mountain to skiers and snowboarders. Snowmass Mountain opens today with six lifts operating and more than 500 acres of terrain.

With 8 inches of fresh snow hitting both ski areas in the past seven days, along with a forecast of sunny skies today through Saturday, the area could see a fair number of last-minute visitors, Tomcich said.

"It's not inconceivable that we could see nearly twice as many people in town over Thanksgiving weekend as we did at this same time last year," he said.

Because of the World Cup competition in Aspen, occupancy rates will be higher in Aspen than in Snowmass, he said. But increases are expected in both markets. In fact, it should be the busiest weekend for Aspen-Snowmass since the first weekend of October, when fall foliage, weddings and group events drew a large number of visitors to the area, Tomcich said.

"You can feel the shift in momentum," he said.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Thanksgiving weekend doesn't come close to drawing the crowds that other holiday weekends like Christmas, New Year's and President's Day bring. But with recent snowfall, the Snowmass opening and the World Cup returning to Aspen, the 2014-15 season should get off to a good start.

"It's the kickoff to our season, but Thanksgiving weekend is not traditionally a big ski weekend," he said. "World Cup tends to bring more people, but a lot of them are affiliated with the races. They may not be free-skiing every day; they're working."

Still, Skico is expecting relatively strong skier-visit numbers over the next few days.

"We're excited," Hanle said. "But a lot of the early season skiers you'll see are locals. It's passholders," he said.

andre@aspentimes.com