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Aspen: too glitzy for its own good?

ASPEN, Colorado ” Is Aspen, Colorado too glitzy for its own good?

The posh ski resort is considering a new marketing plan to persuade travelers that Aspen can be affordable. But not everyone is excited about the downmarket proposal.

The question has become a sticking point in the city’s mayoral race. Mayor Mick Ireland says in his re-election campaign that Aspen’s marketing strategy should be tweaked to highlight the city’s free buses, free Nordic skiing trails and free classical music concerts.



“We offer a lot to everybody no matter what your income level,” he told the Aspen Daily News. “We need to get the attention of the world that Aspen is inclusive, welcoming and affordable.”

Ireland has proposed a citywide campaign to offer discounted golf rounds, dinners-for-two packages and other deals. Standing outside a coffee shop that will close next week because of the poor economy, Ireland said Aspen needs to get away from the “bling and glitz” image because too many travelers find the town unapproachable.

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“I want to get the attention of the nation that Aspen is inclusive and affordable,” Ireland said.

But mayoral challenger Marilyn Marks warns a budget-friendly approach is the wrong one. She says Aspen should focus instead on existing wealthy customers.

“It’s far easier, faster and cheaper to bring back return customers who know the product, love the brand and are satisfied,” Marks said.



Aspen shouldn’t try to compete with a crowded Colorado market of mid-budget ski resorts, many of which already offer ski deals and lodging discounts.

“Why would we want to go there when we are up here in the rarefied air with very little real competition for our traditional customers?” she said.

Marks wants to see the resort maintain its aura of prestige.

“We have the most coveted brand in the world in terms of skiing,” she said.

Aspen businesses are divided on the idea. The Aspen Skiing Co. and two hotels joined Ireland’s announcement about the “affordable Aspen” pitch.

David Perry, an executive with the skiing company, said his firm has won new customers by advertising a five-day ski deal with lift tickets at $62 a day.

“It’s actually a story that can get a lot of traction,” he said.

But Aspen must also differentiate itself, since every other resort in the world is cutting prices at the moment, Perry said.

Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square hotel, said Aspen won’t ever be cheap ” but it doesn’t have to be because the product is that good.

“We don’t want to lose the high-end customer,” he said.

The election is May 5.


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