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Food & Wine puts Aspen summer in high gear

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen Times
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesPreparations for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen this weekend are well under way at Wagner Park, where the tents were in place Monday.
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ASPEN – This weekend’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen will kick off a summer season that, at least so far, is shaping up to be an improvement over 2009, according to a number of the resort’s lodge and hotel operators.The Classic itself is approaching a sellout, having surpassed last year’s pass sales a couple of weeks ago, according to Devin Padgett, producer of special projects for Food & Wine magazine.The event again this year offered single-day passes to events on both Friday and Saturday to augment sales of the three-day festival passes; Saturday’s day passes have sold out; a few $295 Friday grand tasting passes remain available, Padgett said Monday. Some of the $1,185 consumer passes, good for events on all three days, were also still available. Trade passes sold out more than a month ago.Various lodge and hotel operators said their establishments are sold out for the Classic, or nearly so, and occupancy for the resort as a whole was expected to top 90 percent for the weekend – on par with recent years, according to Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.Following on the heels of Food & Wine comes the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival, June 25-July 3, overlapping with the July 1 start of the Aspen Music Festival and School, which leads into the Fourth of July weekend and the Aspen Ideas Festival, July 5-11.”I’d say the week following the Fourth of July looks like it’s going to be a banner week for us – the whole week,” Tomcich said. “It’s rock-solid.”Scheduling the start of the Ideas Festival on the Monday after the Fourth of July (July 4 is a Sunday) was “a stroke of genius,” said innkeeper Charlie Case at the Annabelle Inn.In many cases, individuals who booked rooms for the July 4 weekend simply extended their stay for part or all of the following week, according to Tomcich.”The first half of the summer – June and July – is going to be our best in several years,” said Case. The 35-room Annabelle is sold out for Food & Wine.Reservations for August, Case said, are slow. That is the case throughout the resort, Tomcich confirmed.June, however, is the fourth straight month business has been up at the 27-room Mountain House Lodge on East Hopkins, said manager Eric Hirro. In fact, receipts for the first half of June surpassed sales for the entire month of June 2009, he said.”I think we’re going to beat July of last year, too,” he said.The Aspen Square Condo Hotel has been sold out for Food & Wine weekend for some time, and reservations on the books for the rest of the summer show promise, said general manager Warren Klug.”Right now, our advance bookings are better than last year by a modest amount,” he said.At the St. Regis Resort, July emerged as a strong month early on, according to Senih Geray, general manager.”For July, I wish we had more rooms to book,” he told the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors in May.Summer bookings are outpacing 2009’s numbers at The Little Nell, as well. The 92-room hotel will be full for Food & Wine and the entire July 4 week, said general manager John Speers.”We’ve got a stronger September than we’ve had in a number of years,” he added, attributing the uptick to group business and weddings.The Little Nell also posted strong numbers in May – a month when the hotel is typically closed. “It turned out to be far better than we thought it would,” Speers said.The Gant’s 120 condos available for short-term rental are booked for Food & Wine, but reservations for the summer as a whole don’t suggest strong gains over 2009, said general manager Donnie Lee.The trend toward last-minute bookings, however, presents an unknown that can tip the balance for local hotels and lodges, said the Aspen Square’s Klug. Summer, in particular, brings a lot of drive-through traffic and visitors who may decide at the last minute to spend a night or two in town, he noted.There is plenty of time for August numbers to improve, Tomcich agreed.janet@aspentimes.com


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