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Spring Jam, but not jam-packed in Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – Spring Jam kicks off this weekend in Aspen and Snowmass, bringing parties, competitions and concerts to coincide with the arrival of spring break vacationers.

March bookings, however, are tracking a bit behind last year’s pace, according to the latest occupancy report for the two resorts.

At the close of February, March reservations were a fraction off last year’s pace in Aspen but down more than 10 percent at Snowmass, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP. Heading into March, overall occupancy stood at about 57 percent in both Aspen and Snowmass, based on MTRiP’s sampling of lodging and condo properties.

The Aspen Chamber Resort Association contributed $20,000 in a partnership with the Aspen Skiing Co. and the lodging community for marketing efforts to fill in slow spots during the month, according to Debbie Braun, president of the association, but reports from individual properties in Aspen suggest March is something of a mixed bag.

March bookings are up more than 10 percent at the 126-room Limelight Lodge, according to Richard Stettner, general manager, and reservations for the winter as a whole reflect an improvement over last season, he said.

Business at the Annabelle Inn on Main Street is up this winter, as well, said manager Charlie Case, though March remains somewhat soft. On the other hand, last-minute reservations for the past two weekends have significantly bolstered the inn’s numbers, he said.

Overall, Case said this winter’s bookings suggest things are looking up.

“For us at the Annabelle, it’s been a very encouraging sign,” he said.

At The Gant, however, general manager Donnie Lee said the leisure travel business at the condo hotel looks like it will be down 8 to 10 percent in March. Group business is also off pace.

March demand has also dropped off at the 26-room Mountain House Lodge after a strong February, according to manager Brian Hoglund.

According to MTRiP, overall occupancy in Aspen was nearly 70 percent in February, just a hair behind last year’s pace, while Snowmass’ occupancy rate surged about 16 percent last month for an overall occupancy rate of 63 percent. Aggressive last-minute lodging deals and marketing pushes helped propel business in Snowmass, according to Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.

For the winter season through February, overall occupancy was tracking 8.4 percent ahead of last season in Aspen, while Snowmass was up 12.5 percent, according to MTRiP.

“I suspect there are very few mountain resort destinations in the U.S. who are going to be able to report those kinds of results this year,” Tomcich wrote in an email summary.

March has traditionally been spring break month for ski resorts, but the traditional time off for students no longer falls in one concentrated week.

“Basically, spring break can be any of five weeks from the beginning of March through mid-April,” Tomcich said. This year, Easter falls on April 8, an ideal spot on the calendar to help fuel business into next month, he added.

Aspen Skiing Co. moves into spring break mode this weekend with the opening slate of Spring Jam festivities. A Core Party on Friday will feature a free concert by Railroad Earth at 8 p.m. in downtown Aspen (corner of Galena and Cooper). The KickAspen Big Air Invitational takes place Saturday at 8 p.m. at the base of Aspen Mountain. On Sunday, this winter’s Hi-Fi Concert Series continues with headliners The Wailers at 4 p.m. at the base of Snowmass.

The Aspen Klug Spring Snowboard Camp at Buttermilk and Terrain Park Boot Camp at Snowmass also take place this weekend.

The second weekend of Spring Jam brings a free concert by Airborne Toxic Event on March 23 at 8 p.m. at the base of Aspen Mountain, plus the Fallen Friends Memorial at Aspen Highlands on March 24, the return of Terrain Park Boot Camp at Snowmass on March 24-25, and the Helly Hansen Battle in the Bowls competition at Highlands on March 25.

April 15 is closing day on Aspen Mountain and at Snowmass. Aspen Highlands is scheduled to close April 22, while Buttermilk’s closing day is April 8.

Looking beyond the ski season, bookings made in February for an arrival date in Aspen in February or as far out as July were up about 14 percent, according to MTRiP. In Snowmass, bookings for arrival in February through July were up about 38 percent.

Stay Aspen Snowmass hasn’t had so many summer reservations already on the books since 2007, according to Tomcich.

“I’d say summer is trending in a positive fashion,” agreed Lee at The Gant. Reservations in June and July are on pace with last year and August numbers are up, he said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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