SAN FRANCISCO -- Tourism officials from Aspen and Snowmass,
neighboring Colorado ski resorts under the ownership and management
of the Aspen Skiing Co., are upbeat, and for good reason.
Autumn storms brought heavy snow, enabling the two ski areas to
open earlier than expected, and bookings are surpassing last year's
On top of that, airlift to Aspen's Sandy Airport -- which is
three miles from Aspen's slopes -- increased 13% for the
United added two more daily flights from Denver to Aspen and a
United Express non-stop from San Francisco, the first from the
The San Francisco daily flight -- operated by Air Wisconsin with
an 88-seat jet -- will run through April 6. The San Francisco Bay
area is Aspen's fourth-ranked market, behind New York, Los Angeles
"The early part of the season, we saw a 10% increase in winter
vacations from San Francisco," said David Perry, senior vice
president of the Aspen Skiing Co.
The flight also provides a one-stop connection from Sydney,
Australia, a top international market for Aspen. United also
operates nonstops to Aspen from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Minneapolis
Northwest is serving Aspen this winter with nonstops from
Memphis and Minneapolis, and America West increased its schedule
with two daily flights from Phoenix.
Perry said this is the most airline service at Aspen since the
record-breaking 1997-98 ski season.
"Aspen always has been very profitable for airlines, and because
this is such a bad year for airline profitability, we are
benefiting from their shift to markets where they have a proven
track record," he said.
Last year was a disappointing season for Aspen, with skier
visits down 6% from the previous winter. But this season has
improved on all fronts -- including early season snowfall, which
has been abundant.
"Our midseason figures aren't in yet, but at the end of the
Christmas vacation period, we were 20% ahead of last year," Perry
"We're seeing the late-booking trend continue," he added. "We
started taking reservations for February bookings one to two weeks
"We've been very pleased overall," said Perry, a longtime ski
executive who joined the Aspen Ski Co. last August after serving as
president of Colorado Ski Country USA. Before that, he was vice
president of marketing at Whistler/Blackcomb ski area in British
Aspen hoteliers reported strong early bookings. Sharon Tinnes,
sales and marketing director for Aspen Square, a condominium hotel
in the middle of the Aspen ski village, said advance bookings were
"well ahead of last year" and that the hotel is expecting higher
occupancy this year "by at least 10%."
However, guests are booking shorter stays, she said.
Bob Bayless, sales and marketing director of two of Aspen's most
luxurious properties, Sardy House and Hotel Lenado, said he
foresees a "great year" that will be on par or even surpass the
winter of 2000-2001.
Bayless said early bookings ran 16% ahead of last year. Room
rates start at $325 at Hotel Lenado and $350 at Sardy House.
In other news from Aspen and Snowmass:
• Ground is expected to be broken in late summer on a
pedestrian-based complex at Snowmass, a joint venture between the
Aspen Skiing Co. and Intrawest Corp., the developer of Whistler and
other village-style ski resorts in the U.S. and Canada.
The project includes a village with hotels, restaurants and
shops and a reconfigured lift system with a new gondola to provide
mountain access from the village. The first phase is expected to
open in 2005.
• Aspen properties that have completed or begun renovations or
additions: the Mountain Chalet, the Christmas Inn, the Christiana
Aspen, the Little Red Ski Haus and L'Auberge d'Aspen.
• Hyatt broke ground last fall on the Hyatt Grand Aspen, a
51-room, fractional-ownership property. Hyatt expects construction
to start in the spring and anticipates a spring 2005 opening.
• The section of the resorts' Web site for travel agents -- at
www.aspensnowmass.com/travelpro -- has a new design
that increases usability.
It provides information on commissionable products, including
lift tickets, ski schools, lodging and equipment rentals. Packages
and discounts are displayed and updated regularly.