Business leaders say Aspen is bouncing back from the recession and spirits are high, partly because of a snowy winter.
"We have had an incredible winter season, which is wonderful because I’ve been up here presenting before when things haven’t been so great," says Debbie Braun.
She's the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) President and she spoke at a breakfast for business and government leaders Tuesday. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, the resort’s total economic activity has almost reached pre-recession levels.
The most recent ski season is a good indicator that economic vitality is returning to Aspen, including in the lodging industry. Warren Klug is the General Manager of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel. He says business was better this season than in previous years.
"So, the last couple of years we grew, but just a little, and held our own, but this year we saw excellent growth over last year, and I’m very pleased for the lodging business in general in Aspen, and certainly for Aspen Square, it’s been a very good ski season."
Klug also sits on the Aspen Chamber board of directors. He credits plentiful snowfall for the boost in business.
"The last couple of years did not bring us the snow that we’re used to and our business was impacted. Skiers look for snow," he says.
Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick told the breakfast crowd gathered Tuesday the lodging industry is making more money than it did in 2007. That's the resort’s best year ever. However, there’s a caveat.
"It has not yet reached the level of 2007 in inflation adjusted dollars, but it’s coming close and the economy as a whole is doing quite well," Barwick said.
He added most of the increase in business at hotels is thanks to higher average daily room rates. A smaller part of the bump is due to higher occupancy rates.
"And, I think that indicates that we still have a very strong brand in Aspen."
Debbie Braun says she’s seeing economic recovery in her organization, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Business members are paying their dues on time and more businesses than ever are contacting the chamber about membership. ACRA also hired two new employees.
"I’m also seeing that with the businesses. During the downturn, they contracted from 20 employees to 3 employees, now they’re gaining on their employee count again."
There are still challenges. For example, the period between Thanksgiving and mid-December is traditionally slow and wages for resort workers are static, partly because such jobs earn relatively low paychecks.
With warmer temperatures just around the corner, Warren Klug of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel thinks the strong economy during the ski season will be reflected in the summer season.
"Right now, our reservations are up nicely over last year at this time, for the summertime. And, I know some of my lodging friends would say the same, so I’m very optimistic at this point," he says.
Aspen’s ski season wraps up in early May. The summer season typically starts in June with the Food and Wine Classic.