Summer season in Aspen winding down to a profitable end
ASPEN – What might be one of Aspen’s more profitable summer tourism seasons in recent years is coming to a close.Sunday was the last day for the Aspen Music Festival and School’s 2012 season. The eight-week music festival, early June’s Food & Wine Classic, late June’s Jazz Aspen/Snowmass string of concerts and early July’s Aspen Ideas Festival are four of the city’s biggest summer draws.A closing Aspen Music Festival concert, Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand,” was held at 4 p.m. Sunday in the Benedict Music Tent at Aspen Meadows in the West End. Throughout the area last week, music students could be seen saying their goodbyes and promising to stay in touch with one another.Officially, of course, summer doesn’t end until Sept. 21, and there are still a few events over the next few weeks that promise to lure visitors and excite locals. The nationally televised USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a seven-stage bike race, rolls onto Main Street on Wednesday afternoon from Independence Pass and departs downtown Aspen for the pass Thursday morning. Local street closures for Wednesday and Thursday have been announced already and will apply to much of the downtown area.Jazz Aspen/Snowmass will hold its annual Labor Day music festival Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 in Snowmass Town Park. Featured artists include the Steve Miller Band, Trombone Shorty and Kid Rock.Aside from the influx of fans for the two days Aspen is hosting the bike race, residents should begin to see fewer vehicles around town beginning this week, city Transportation Director John Krueger said recently.”Mid-August, after the music school is done, the traffic starts dropping off a bit,” he said. “There’s another little spike around Labor Day, and then it tapers off again.”Krueger said July is Aspen’s busiest month of the year in terms of traffic. A traffic counter at the intersection of Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane measured an average of about 26,700 cars daily during July this year. The figure is a total for vehicles entering and exiting the city.”July Fourth week is our busiest week, and we had some days with 29,000 cars a day, in and out,” he said.That 26,700-vehicle figure for July represents a slight increase over July 2011’s total of about 26,300 vehicles daily, Krueger said.”July’s average is up over last year by about 1.5 percentage points,” he said. “June was up 5 percent. May was up 6 percent. On a seven-month basis, January to July, traffic is up about 2.2 percent over last year. But it’s still 7.5 percent below 1993.”The year 1993 was when a benchmark peak for Aspen inbound and outbound traffic was established. That was the year that state and local governmental agencies, as well as the community at large, decided that traffic was rising to levels that strained the city’s infrastructure, Krueger said.Since then, local governments have taken steps to reduce summer traffic totals, including increased bus service, paid-parking stations, bike-to-work promotions and car-sharing programs, he said.The weak economy in 2009 and 2010 helped to reduce Aspen’s traffic levels, as well, “but it’s slowly creeping back up,” Krueger said.Other economic indicators suggest a busier summer season than last year’s.June’s retail sales in Aspen were the best they’ve been in 10 years, according to the city’s Finance Department. The department’s monthly consumption tax report shows sales of $44.05 million, a 15.6 percent increase compared with June 2011’s sales of $38.11 million.The second-best June over the past decade occurred in 2007, when city retailers and others realized sales of about $40 million, city accountant Chris Lundgren has said. The city’s report on July retail sales and tax collections won’t be released until early September.A recently issued report from the Denver-based Mountain Travel Research Program showed a 78.1 percent occupancy rate for Aspen lodges in July compared with 71.2 percent in July 2011. Vacationers also paid more to stay in Aspen in July, with the average daily rate hitting $319 compared with $294 for the same month last email@example.com
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