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Snowmass continues to strive for collaboration, community support during COVID-19

People explore the Snowmass Artisan Market in Base Village on Friday, July 10, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Over the past week, Snowmass Village event organizers have debuted several new weekly activities aimed at helping boost economic and social vitality in town.

And from the Artisan Market on July 10 to Social Saturdays and Movies Under the Stars the next day, these new activities seem to be off to a good start, according to Julie Hardman, special events manager with Snowmass Tourism.

“Overall it was busy up there, people have been milling around and the restaurants had action so that’s great to see,” Hardman said of last weekend. “We’re continuing to make adjustments as needed and are keeping things fluid, but hopefully people appreciated the activations we had.”

On top of the new offerings, Hardman said this weekend the town is hosting its first Snowmass Summer Drive-in Series movie Thursday and Friday on a big screen in the main Snowmass Town Park parking lot.

The free movie will start both nights around 9 p.m. (delayed from 8 p.m. as previously scheduled due to sunset timing), and aims to not just be “one event,” but a way to encourage people to spend the whole evening or day socially distanced and out in the village, maybe checking out the Snowmass Bike Park in the afternoon or grabbing a bite to eat before heading down to the show, Hardman said. People will even be able to order food to-go to bring or have delivered to the drive-in events, she said.

For Hardman, this multi-purpose aspect of each activity and event this summer highlights Snowmass Tourism’s larger summer events goal of creating safe, socially distanced ways for locals and visitors to get out in the community, all while supporting the town economy and various businesses.

However, Hardman said in order to reach this goal and for these new weekly events and activations to be as effective as they hope, event organizers are relying on the support and participation of all local businesses and merchants arguably more than ever.

“We’re trying to communicate with our stakeholders and ask them to meet us half way,” Hardman said, noting that means staying open later on nights when there is an activity or event in their area of the town and/or offering specials or discounts on those nights.

“We want to find out what helps, what we can do differently, and how we can all work together to make these activations a draw for people.”

On July 9, Hardman touched on this drive to collaborate with Snowmass business owners and this summer’s planned events during the monthly (and now virtual) Tourism Talk stakeholder meeting.

During the roughly hour-long talk, Mark Scheller, group sales director, talked about the status of group sales; Virginia McNellis, marketing director, talked about the town’s current marketing and social media strategies; and Rose Abello, tourism director of Snowmass Tourism, talked about what “travel sentiment” trends are being reported on a national level, and how the town and its tourism department continues to shift and adapt as the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve.

Abello showed that according to the most recent findings of a tracking study of American travelers being conducted by Longwoods International, 76% of travelers planning to travel in the next six months will change their travel plans due to the coronavirus, with 45% canceling their trips completely and 40% reducing their travel plans.

The nationwide study data/traveler sentiments are released every other week, Abello said, and correlate with what’s happening with the COVID-19 crisis.

On the local level, the average paid lodging occupancy in Snowmass over the month of June was at 16.8%, down from 50.8% last year, according to the most recent reservations activity data collected by DestiMetrics.

However, Abello said many lodge owners are reporting more last-minute bookings and longer lengths of stays at their properties, and that June finished better than most people anticipated.

Abello also said the “Love a Local” campaign has been relatively successful so far, with 35 Snowmass businesses having registered to be a part of the voucher program and 231 vouchers turned into the town as of July 9.

“A huge component of the Love a Local program is the voucher component, but we really believe this is an opportunity where if you’re a visitor and you didn’t get a voucher and don’t know anything about a voucher, it still resonates,” Abello said of the campaign.

But while the Love a Local campaign is the town’s main effort to bring money into the village economy and support local business, it’s not the only one. The Part-Time Resident Advisory Board is heading a “Save Snowmass Village Restaurants” fundraising campaign — with $33,120 of the $150,000 goal raised as of July 14 — and many Aspen-Snowmass locals have $65 of free money to spend in different parts of town, with the both the Romero Group’s and Snowmass Base Village’s local voucher programs as well.

Snowmass Base Village sent out $20 vouchers just before the Fourth of July weekend to the same list of Aspen-Snowmass area residents as the Love a Local campaign. The vouchers can be used at any Snowmass Base Village business and are valid through July 31, said Andy Gunion, managing partner for East West Partners in Snowmass.

Gunion said the goal of the “Base Village bucks” voucher program is to compliment the Love a Local campaign and a way to assist Base Village tenants specifically, allowing them to turn the vouchers in either for a check that matches the total voucher amount collected, or to receive that total amount as a discount on their rent.

“We know this is not a normal summer and wanted to think of another way to support our tenants that wasn’t just abating their rents,” Gunion said, which East West Partners has been doing since April.

“We also have some new businesses in Base Village and felt this was a good way to encourage people to come check them out and to provide more revenue to businesses overall.”

While there isn’t much hard June or July economic data yet, both Abello and Town Manager Clint Kinney said anecdotally they’ve heard this summer amid the pandemic has been going relatively well and in many ways better than expected.

However, Kinney emphasized that there still are some local businesses and merchants who are struggling, which the town recognizes.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if there are good ideas someone has that they want us to consider, please give us a call,” Kinney said. “We don’t pretend to know everything and feel it’s important to continue to come up with good ideas.”

Although there is still uncertainty around what the next few months of the COVID-19 crisis may bring, overall Mayor Markey Butler said she feels the town and its residents have already come up with some really good ideas for economic recovery, and is proud of the community for its support of one another during the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s been inspiring to me to see the compliance we have here in Snowmass Village, the respect for one another, social distancing, … so it’s wonderful to see,” Butler said at the July 13 Town Council work session. “Our community here has really stepped up to the plate and I’m really proud of everything our community has done.”

mvincent@aspentimes.com


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