Mountain News: Aspen targets special events 

ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen's city government has invested $50,000 this year in special events intended to draw competitive athletes. The strategy has worked, reports The Aspen Times, as the events have attracted record numbers of people this year, despite the recession.

The events target residents along Colorado's urbanized Front Range corridor and Utah's parallel Wasatch Front. The events include a cross-country ski race in January, a cycling criterium in May, a triathalon in August, and a half-marathon in September.

The events have attracted anywhere from 100 to 850 participants, and city officials believe the participants - or their companions - spend well while in Aspen. The half-marathon, for example, is expected to draw nearly 700 people, bringing in nearly $216,000 in taxable revenue.

Hoteliers like the shoulder-season events, economic development officials tell the Times , because it produces vitality. The May bicycle competition included races in the downtown area but also a ride that climbed 4,000 feet up to Independence Pass. Hoteliers eager for any business during the sluggish days of May were willing to give participants what was described as phenomenal deals.

"This is a market that previously was traveling farther for their athletic events and it's more open to traveling closer to home in this economic climate," said Nancy Lesley, director of the city's special events and marketing department.

The Times notes that Aspen has been putting on special events designed to draw tourists for 58 years and even longer if you count the summer events that arrived after World War II. Mick Ireland, the mayor, says special events remain important, because they expose new people to Aspen. "They help overcome the notion that Aspen is inaccessible or stodgy or exclusive."

Hotelier Dale Paas, whose family has operated a lodge in Aspen for more than 50 years, said the recession has reminded Aspen "that we need an economic driver, and that is special events."

Vail pushing ski school, restaurants

VAIL, Colo. - This coming winter, Vail Resorts intends to do a better job of parting money from its customers.

With its new low-cost Epic season pass, the company's attendance at its five resorts held up reasonably well, sagging just five per cent. But business at ski school - a major revenue centre for the company - plunged 20 per cent, reports Rob Katz, the company's chief executive, in a recent meeting in Vail.

With this in mind, Katz told an audience, company officials have been working on plans to more aggressively market both ski schools and mountain restaurants.

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