Surviving the first season at Snowmass Base Village
SNOWMASS VILLAGE What do you do when youre one of the first three restaurants to open at the $1 billion Base Village development at Snowmass, where most of the lodging is still an untold number of years away from completion? And, simultaneously, the nation plunges into recession?Base Village restaurants have responded with creativity, offering everything from locals specials to free face painting by Button the Clown.Its tough, because [in a recession], youre not as adventurous with your dollars anymore, said Kristin Everhart, who does marketing for Sneakys Tavern. So its tough for a new restaurant, without having that loyalty behind you. Add to that challenge the fact that valley buses dont stop at Base Village, most of the lodging is not yet open, finding the parking garage is arguably a little tricky, and in many places there is no signage explaining where Base Village is. A little creativity might be in order. And it appears it is. The Sweet Life has started holding regular events such as Thursday karaoke nights, free face painting on Saturday afternoons and a kids movie night on Saturday evening.And weve been doing birthday parties like its our full-time job, said proprietor Jennifer Hayes. At Sneakys Tavern, the strategy has been to offer $3 pints to season pass holders, hire locals who will bring in their friends and e-mail specials to locals on nights when reservations are low. At Junk and Liquid Sky, proprietor Scott DeGraff said he has held events like a Valentines Day party co-sponsored by Aspen magazine and tons of private parties. Since opening, Base Village has often been packed with people during the day, as it is one of the most obvious places to end up after skiing on Snowmass Mountain. Evenings, however, can be a different story. In a car, finding the free evening parking at the Base Village garage in the dark requires a bit of attention, as the brand new underground garage is not directly on Brush Creek Road. The No. 1 question I get is where do I park? said Hayes. Bus riders are even more challenged. They must offload at the Snowmass Mall, walk to the end, then take the brightly-colored Skittles gondola down to Base Village. Thats without clear signs on the Snowmass Mall explaining how to get down to Base Village, observed Everhart. It is kind of hidden, conceded Snowmass Mayor Bill Boineau. Still, customers appear to be finding their way, if not always in packs. Last Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sneakys Tavern was packed, Junk was about one-third full, and several small groups braved the cold to drink around the fire pit at Liquid Skys outside bar. Not a single person was dining at The Sweet Life, perhaps in part because the restaurants second-floor location makes it the least-obvious option.But while the three proprietors have differing opinions about how business has been so far, all three are certain that things will only get better particularly with the opening of a bus terminal and the 236-room Viceroy next season. At the end of the day, its still going to be the worst season that anyone has had, said Scott DeGraff, owner of the Junk restaurant and Liquid Sky bar. To get the 50 yard-line seats, you have to get it, he said. In a year, you wont be able to get a piece of real estate here.But once this ski season is over, the businesses have a long stretch before the Viceroy Snowmass opens, and without the ski hill to draw in customers. Having free parking all day at the garage under Base Village will help, noted DeGraff. During the ski season, parking is only free after 6 p.m.The restaurants may also collaborate to divvy up nights, so they dont have competing specials, said Everhart. Noting that a recent free Galactic concert sponsored by Aspen Skiing Co. brought in a huge crowd, several proprietors said they hoped more were on the way. But Susan Hamley, director of the Snowmass marketing and special events department, said the towns popular free concert series will continue to be held off the Snowmass Mall. However, she is aiming for a Base Village concert this summer, in the vein of Snowmasss Chili Pepper & Brew Fest, she said if she can put it together in time. Still, whatever the season, one of Base Villages greatest challenges may be one of Snowmasss oldest challenges convincing Aspenites to make the trip. Its very frustrating, because people in Aspen arent interested, said Hayes. People in Aspen have a really snobby attitude toward Snowmass. I think getting over that hurdle is definitely a huge obstacle. But when they finally get there, she argued, customers are convinced. When Liquid Skys DJ booth is going and that music projects across Base Village To me, its the best aprs ski scene Ive ever seen, said Hayes. At 4 p.m., its sunny, sunny in the whole Base Village area and you could just sit there for firstname.lastname@example.org
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