Start of Summer: More businesses set to reopen this weekend for socially distanced summer season
More than three months after the abrupt end to the winter season in Snowmass due to the pandemic, storefront signs are starting to turn from “closed” to “open” as the village rolls into summer.
On a recent afternoon, kids were mountain boarding and biking as part of Camp Aspen Snowmass, small groups sat outside of The Stew Pot and Fuel Cafe for lunch and people could be seen enjoying the outdoor and indoor activity areas of the Snowmass Recreation Center.
“We’re so excited to have people back in our facilities,” said Andy Worline, director of the town’s parks, recreation and trails department, of the recreation center reopening.
Many village businesses including the Snowmass Recreation Center recently opened or plan to in the next few weeks, and there will be a burst of reopenings this weekend.
Lodging options like the Westin Resort open Thursday, the Viceroy Snowmass Resort on Friday and the Limelight on Sunday, and both the Skittles and Elk Camp gondolas are set to be up and running over the weekend (Skittles on Friday, Elk Camp on Sunday).
And as the village really starts to move toward a full reopening, as public health orders allow, the town is launching a new shop local marketing and stimulus program to help bring more Snowmass area residents in to support village businesses and to create vibrancy.
The program, called “Love a Local,” was crafted by town staff and the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force to support merchants, encourage people to shop locally and speak to the pride of patronizing Snowmass Village businesses, according to Rose Abello, Snowmass Tourism director. The program includes increased shop local marketing and a $25 voucher program for Snowmass and Aspen area residents that can be used at any Snowmass business with a physical village location.
For Abello and her Snowmass Tourism team, inspiring a sense of pride for shopping locally in the village amid the pandemic is an important part of the “Love a Local” program, and she feels area residents really have an opportunity to make a difference by purchasing from local merchants.
“Our decisions today, what we decide and how we decide to spend our money, will decide the future of our community,” Abello said.
Similar voucher programs exist in communities up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, including a program put out by The Romero Group for its Snowmass Mall tenants specifically to help them pay rent.
There also are picnic tables out on Fanny Hill to make it easier for families to still purchase food from Snowmass restaurants and social distance, even if eateries reach their in-person capacities.
Another way the town and its event partners hope to help boost the Snowmass economy and village vitality is through its summer event and activity lineup.
Abello said town officials are still waiting for guidance on some of its bigger, more complex events, like drive-in movies and concerts, but are planning to host a variety of activities like the Fourth of July drive-by “Ice Cream Anti-Social” and Social Saturdays on the Snowmass Mall, as previously reported.
“The challenge is not to plan things so compelling they draw too many people,” Abello said. “We are trying to do all we can to make things fun and vibrant this summer.”
According to the latest summer occupancy data for Snowmass Village, lodging properties are not seeing much advanced bookings so far.
In the 60-day time period from May 31 to July 31 last year, Snowmass’ projected nightly lodging occupancy rate hovered consistently between the 30% and 60% range as of May 31 that year, but the actual occupancy rates jumped above those percentages, DestiMetrics data shows.
This year, the most recent data as of May 31 shows projected occupancy more between the 5% and 15% range over the same time period, with the highest rates around the Fourth of July at roughly 20%.
However, although these numbers seem dismal, Abello said many lodging properties are anecdotally seeing guests book longer, more last-minute stays, so the projected occupancy data may be worse than what will actually happen.
Andy Gunion, managing partner for East West Partners, said he and his staff have noticed a similar trend in Snowmass and across similar markets like Vail.
So far, about 10 of East West Partners’ second homeowner tenants have returned to Base Village and Gunion said it seems more and more are trickling in.
Right now, Base Camp Bar and Grill is open, Gunion said, and more Base Village businesses are expected to start back up in the coming weeks, though some reopening decisions will depend on how much demand there is.
“In July we should be up and running stable for the summer. But we’ll continue to make adjustments on the fly which seems to be the new reality we’re all facing,” Gunion said. “We’re doing our best to strike that balance between being fun and open but safe.”
Activities also will start up in Base Village next week, with Aaron King of King Yoga hosting his first summer outdoor class on the rink Wednesday.
Dawn Blasberg, Base Village plaza and events manager, said The Collective will reopen with a community bingo night on July 2, and that there will be things like corn hole, pogo sticks, giant connect four and volleyball available for check out if families want something to do outside on their own.
Other summer Base Village events include an après artisan market on Fridays starting July 10, “Movies Under the Stars” kicking off with “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on July 11, and the inaugural Snowmass Base Village Community Dinner with mix6’s Martin Oswald and The Crepe Shack’s Mawa McQueen on July 15 at The Collective.
But the village reopening doesn’t just apply to lodging, restaurants and retailers. Aspen Skiing Co. is ramping up its operations, with Camp Aspen Snowmass kids camps starting this week and the opening of the Elk Camp Gondola, Snowmass Bike Park and Lost Forest set for this weekend.
The ski area will be open for downhill mountain biking and hiking access Sunday, and the Lost Forest’s alpine coaster, rope challenge course and climbing wall will be open as well, according to an emailed statement. The company’s Four Mountain Sports rental store in Base Village also will open Sunday, Skico officials said.
As for the rest of the town’s trail and outdoor recreation opportunities, daily wildflower and Ice Age walks have resumed, starting from the Snowmass Mall, and parks and trails staff are seeing an increase in trail use.
Starr Jamison, town parks and trails manager, said she’s seen a drastic increase in the numbers of cars parked at trailheads (which she acknowledged could be a result of social distancing efforts) and a lot of local bikers out.
“I think people who ride bikes and usually travel a lot at this time are staying here to ride instead,” Jamison said. “People are sticking around, more second homeowners seem to be here and everyone is using the trails.”
The Tom Blake Trail and Sequel Trail reopen Sunday, along with the Anaerobic Nightmare and Government Trail east of Elk Camp Work Road on June 28, which Jamison feels will help spread users out. She also said she plans to put more signage out to remind people of proper trail etiquette.
“All users have to remember that we all go out to seek our own experience on the trail and we all have to respect each other,” Jamison said. “We’re really fortunate to be able to be outdoors and on the trails in a way that people can still social distance during this pandemic.”
For more current information on summer activities and which businesses are open, visit gosnowmass.com. For more information on the current public health order and town COVID-19 updates, visit tosv.com/495/COVID-19-UPDATES.
Snowmass Village will host a fundraiser Dec. 14 to support longtime resident Jason Neilson, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.