Summer in Snowmass packed with events
Snowmass Village’s calendar is jam-packed with events this summer, ranging from such standbys as the Thursday-night concert series and rodeo to national events like Tough Mudder and Wanderlust.
Not only does that equate to fun, but tourism officials and local merchants also anticipate that the events will increase visits to Snowmass this summer and hopefully introduce people to the village as a vacation destination.
The summer kicks off with a Ragnar trail relay race on June 6 and 7. The relay series that holds events around the country has finished its Colorado road race in Snowmass Village for the past three years. That event will return in August, but this year, the company is also holding a trail race to kick off the summer.
The June race won’t generate a lot of hotel stays. However, with the exception of the seasons when the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest was the first weekend of June, this year will still exceed the occupancy historically recorded that weekend, said Fred Brodsky, group sales director for Snowmass Tourism and the department’s interim head.
“It’s just an impressive early-season event,” said Dave Elkan, Snowmass Tourism sales and events manager. “It will look like there’s people here.”
The Ragnar race is immediately followed by the Snowmass Mammoth Fest, now in its second year. Ticket sales are pacing ahead of last year, Brodsky said.
“I feel we’re going to turn the corner,” Brodsky said. “I feel the lineup speaks to the mountains, the Colorado folk, a little more than last year.”
Formerly the Chili Pepper and Brew Fest, the Mammoth Fest was created last year when the town hired Steve Gumble Productions, the organizers of Telluride Blues and Brews. Although most attendees had positive things to say about the new event, many Snowmass businesspeople took issue with the festival’s relocation from Fanny Hill to Town Park.
This year, the producers are addressing that by holding a free night of music on the Snowmass Village Mall as well as the chili tastings, a part of the event since its inception.
“It’s always better when there’s events right on the mall,” said Reed Lewis, owner of three mall businesses. “It just drains the economic vitality from the retail core.”
Food & Wine weekend will also be the date of an endurance mountain-biking race that Snowmass has held for three years and will now be included in Colorado and national cycling series. Also that weekend, the Elk Camp Gondola starts running and the Thursday-night concert series kicks off.
One of Snowmass Tourism’s methods the past two years has been to leverage group business with events. That is being carried out during Mammoth Fest, when a group of executive meeting planners has been booked, and some of the Thursday-night concerts. One such group, the Colorado Harley Owners Group State Rally, matched the town’s spending on one week to help bring in Grand Funk Railroad during its stay.
“(Harley Owners Group) is a perfect example of a group that brings a lot of people but doesn’t require a lot of meeting space,” Brodsky said. “It’s a big Snowmass opportunity. It’s a lot of people that probably have never been here before that. Many of them could probably buy a place here if they wanted to. They certainly could afford to come back and ski here.”
As of March 31, June bookings at 11 Snowmass lodges were pacing 62.7 percent ahead of last year.
July and August
Snowmass is reaching another key demographic with the Wanderlust yoga festival, Brodsky said. Wanderlust holds events throughout the country and is coming to Snowmass Village over the July Fourth weekend.
July continues with the Culinary & Arts Festival, an annual tradition, and the Deaf Camp Picnic, which was revitalized last year. Occupancy is high that weekend, and Snowmass Tourism is hoping to drive visitors toward the picnic, a fundraiser for the Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
A doubles volleyball tournament, expected to draw 200 teams of two, and a Jeep Jamboree — both in their second year — will close out the month.
The first highlight of the month of August is the USA Pro Challenge from Aug. 14 to 19. Snowmass Village will again host the race crews and opening ceremonies. In addition, it will kick off the event with a charity road race.
The Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival is Aug. 29 through 31, and that event typically comes close to selling out rooms in Snowmass Village.
July occupancy is pacing 23.1 percent ahead of last year. August, however, was pacing down 7.9 percent as of March 31.
Although bookings for August might be down, September occupancy is pacing 249.4 percent ahead of 2013. That’s from a baseline of 3.1 percent booked as of March 31, 2013, but the month includes the national Tough Mudder race series on Sept. 6 and 7.
Registration is still open for the event, but hotels are already 50 percent booked for that weekend, Brodsky said. Lewis doesn’t expect the race to draw as many participants as the estimated 10,000 who competed in it at Beaver Creek, but he said “even if they get half as many people, … it’s going to be a great weekend.”
Tough Mudder is followed the next weekend by the Snowmass Balloon and Wine festivals, events that also relocated last year. The wine festival, a fundraiser for Snowmass Rotary, moved from the mall to Town Park, and in order to drive visits to the commercial core, Snowmass Tourism shifted the balloon night glow to Fanny Hill.
The longtime festival favorite did not go over well with attendees in the new location. After inclement weather all weekend, officials rushed to start the torches in the balloons going earlier than planned in order to beat another expected storm. The weather ended up holding, but the pilots only had enough supplies to burn their torches for an hour, and the glow was over before dark. Some balloons were also blown around by high winds.
“We drove people to the commercial core as we wanted, but the production of it stank,” Brodsky said.
This year, Snowmass Tourism plans to give it one more shot, this time with the addition of some circus-style entertainment in Base Village.
“The idea is to just do this right this time,” Elkan said.
Behind the scenes
The packed calendar is all a result of a new approach to summer that Snowmass Tourism has taken in the past two years.
“We have direction; we have focus now that maybe we haven’t had in the past,” Brodsky said.
Snowmass has long been a favorite winter playground for national and international visitors, but it has never established what its identity is in the summer, Brodsky said. Brodsky and his team are working to develop a vision for that, but one thing that he’s certain about is that events are a big piece of it.
The priority with groups and events is to drive hotel night stays, the effect of which trickles down to restaurants and retailers.
“As long as we have people here, things tend to go in a better direction,” said Lewis, also a former councilman who speaks out often about the direction and spending of the tourism department. There’s a lot more going on this season than most summers in the past and “a lot of new ideas,” Lewis said.
In the future, Brodsky said it’s mandatory that summers in Snowmass have this many events. It’s also important that Snowmass offer a high level of service while these guests are here so that they return.
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