Snowmass Gets Ready for Bike Race

Jul 22, 2013

In a month, more than a thousand pro cyclists, staff, and journalists will descend on Snowmass Village. That’s for the kickoff of the USA Pro Challenge, an international bike race. It’s the first time Snowmass has hosted part of the event. In past years, retailers across the state have said they don’t make much money from spectators. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher took a look at what Snowmass merchants are expecting.

Joe Lang is part of the local organizing for the bike race... and he describes the event like a real date with that special someone who’s been just out of your reach.

“In the past two years it’s kind of blown through Aspen, it spent the night last year, but this year the opportunity to put our best foot forward, as a community. And then the opportunity to hopefully do this again.”

On Monday, Lang and Snowmass representatives held a meeting for Village merchants... about how to plan around the bike race in August. Snowmass Village hopes lots of tourists will come for the event... and the idea is to make sure there’s a whole weekend of activities to draw them in. Again, Joe Lang.

“Something new to the pro challenge is to actually try to instigate an opening ceremonies. In the past the team introduction party has been a private vip event, and it’s more exclusive And our objective was to do something that could be more community oriented, free to the general public.”

Which means tourists and locals will be able to see some of the best pro cyclists in the world... maybe even Chris Froome, the guy who just won the Tour de France. Now race organizers like to say it’s the largest spectator event in Colorado. The state’s tourism office can’t verify that claim, but it’s safe to say that in past year’s it’s generated crowds in Aspen that otherwise wouldn’t be there.  Still, for at least one hospitality business in Snowmass, it’s looking a little thin. Mary Harris is with Timberline condominiums and The Edge restaurant. She asked whether Snowmass is doing any marketing to reach tourists.

“Cause they have not started to book. Spectators have not. That’s why I’m a little concerned.”

Harris says she believes if merchants work together, they’ll find a way to fill beds. And for the record, there will be advertising before the race that specifically mentions Snowmass Village.

In shops along the upper mall, employees at several businesses were hesitant to talk publicly about their expectations for the USA Pro Challenge. Most felt they were likely to see very little extra revenue, but liked having the event in Snowmass. Others were more optimistic... like Sherry Flack, who owns...

“Local Color and Local Rebels, which are the main ladies’ stores on the mall. I think it’ll be great, we need some great activity and some good events. Snowmass is a fabulous place, and I think the more people that learn, we’ll be able to build our business back up again.”

Flack says she’s lost sales competing with the Base Village. And last summer was tough with construction next door. Retail sales during the race have been mixed during the last two years. And the mantra among host towns has been that TV coverage can make up for it. Organizers said much of the same at Monday’s meeting.  And there’s a plan to maximize that opportunity, says Dave Elken.

“I ordered sixteen by eight foot lettering stencils, like you’d see in the end zone at a football game. And we’re going to put Snowmass in the outfield. And I have a balloon coming.”

The idea is that bringing tourists later in the year can make up for spectators not spending much money during the race. Using that calculus, Durango tallied several million dollars in media exposure last year, during and after hosting the race start. The trick may be finding a way to track whether future visitors chose Snowmass Village because of this summer’s bike race.