How is summer stacking up for Snowmass businesses?

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The numbers are in, and if you rely on sales tax revenue and lodging data, it appears that Snowmass is having a stellar summer.

Overall paid occupancy in Snowmass Village in June was 36.7 percent, almost 30 percent higher than June 2013. Sales for the month were possibly the highest they’ve ever been in June, at $6.15 million, according to the town sales tax collection report.

And in July, paid occupancy rose to almost 60 percent over the course of the month, increasing 21.1 percent over last year, while Aspen’s paid occupancy dropped.

Tourism officials credited that to the additional events and group bookings in Snowmass this summer and limited vacancies in Aspen due to more second-home owners in town rather than paying guests.

“Obviously there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in Snowmass. But for the first time in a long time, I can see it going the right direction.”
David Dugan
Restaurateur, Base Village

But how are all of those added room nights and events impacting Snowmass restaurants and retailers? It’s better, but there’s still room for improvement, most of them say.

“It’s better than it would have been if there wasn’t anything going on,” said Robby Pastore, owner of the Taste of Philly restaurant, on Aug. 18. However, that day, the USA Pro Challenge was in town, and not a soul was wandering the Snowmass Village Mall.

Busy weekends in June accounted for a lot of his restaurant’s success this summer, Pastore said. Having the Westin nearby helps drive traffic, but conference groups only help if he knows when to expect them for meals, he said.

Business was great at Taste of Philly over July 4 weekend, when the Wanderlust yoga festival helped boost occupancy in town to 97 percent. But the rest of the month has been about the same as in the past, partially because there haven’t been any weekend events on or near the Mall since then. In fact, the Deaf Camp Picnic, which was supposed to be on Fanny Hill where the Thursday night concerts are staged, was moved to Base Village when ticket sales were unsuccessful.

Reed Lewis, who owns 81615, the Daly Bottle Shop and Grain Fine Food, also said it would be helpful if more of the events were physically near the Mall.

“Overall, I’m pleased by the quality of events and the fact that there are new events,” Lewis said. “I’m still troubled that so many events are Base Village-centric. The heart of the village remains in the Mall.”

Part of Base Village’s success is due to the common-consumption area that merchants there create during or following most of the events going on this summer. In the common-consumption area, guests can purchase an alcoholic beverage at one bar and wander around the Base Village plaza and the new lawn at the bottom of Fanny Hill. Entry and exit points are guarded by security to make sure the patrons don’t leave the vicinity with their drinks.

David Dugan, of Base Camp Bar & Grill and Slice, said that environment has given the Snowmass Tourism department something to pitch to groups such as Wanderlust.

“We have something to offer,” Dugan said. “It’s been a collective effort.”

Base Village merchants also created the common-consumption area following the Thursday night concerts, and they started a Sunday farmers market on the plaza.

“Obviously there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in Snowmass,” Dugan said. “But for the first time in a long time, I can see it going the right direction.”

Restaurants don’t see any boost in business from the USA Pro Challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the town supporting it, especially if it benefits the lodges, Dugan said.

Snowmass still has a lot on its calendar before the summer season ends. Village hotels are expected to sell out for Labor Day weekend, and they’re already fully booked for the following weekend because of the Tough Mudder obstacle race. Approximately 9,000 athletes and spectators are expected for that event, the town said on Aug. 19.


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