Food & Wine Rescheduled for September
The Food & Wine Classic, typically held in June, will move to Sept. 9-12, 2021, the Aspen Daily News reported. The event is inherently not socially distanced, but organizers feel confident that the pandemic will be subdued enough by then to host the crowded event. Aspen City Council approved the new dates. In order to construct the tents that transform Wagner Park into the Grand Tasting Pavilion, the festival would need private use of the land from Sept. 1 to 15, which overlap with two long-standing sporting events held in Aspen each fall: the MotherLode Volleyball Classic and Ruggerfest. The MotherLode will amend its courts layouts and Ruggerfest will push back its dates to accommodate for Food & Wine.
City Council Approves Pay Raise
After 20 years, the Aspen City Council is getting a $1,000-per-month raise, the Aspen Daily News reported. Council salaries have not seen any increase since 2001. The raise aims to help compensate council members for their time as a public servant, which is a part-time job. The new ordinance also formalizes the hours worked, shifting the language from “part time” to “at least 20 hours” to clarify for council members with work-hour requirements for their deed-restricted housing.
Aspen Ideas Will Remain Virtual
The Aspen Ideas Festival in June will be a virtual gathering like it was in 2020, with the possibility of any in-person sessions hinging on the state of public health, the Aspen Times reported. The lineup of speakers will be unveiled in 2021, but the theme is “American Futures,” examining issues ranging from “democracy to science, the USA’s role on the world stage, and inequality.” Aspen Ideas is scheduled to run online from June 27 to 30.
November Sets Lodging Records, and Then They Drop
Aspen’s lodging industry set a record for occupancy in November despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Aspen Times reported. Occupancy in Aspen was 32%, beating 2018’s 31.5%. Snowmass was at 16.3%, similar to last year’s 16.6%, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass.
Reservations on the books for December were down nearly 18% on Nov. 1 compared with the same point last year. By Nov. 30, reservations for December were down 27.5%. For the winter overall, bookings are down 47% compared with the same time last year. December’s official occupancy numbers will be released in late January.
Westin, Wildwood Sells for $70 Million
Investors who bought the Westin Snowmass Resort and other properties in Snowmass Village for $70 million plan to make the 254-guestroom property a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Aspen Times reported. The sale included the Westin, the 151-room Wildwood Snowmass lodge and the 18,000-square-foot Snowmass Conference Center.
The sellers were Starwood Capital Group and Wasserman Real Estate. The new owners are Snowmass Resort LLC, an affiliate of Atlanta-based High Street Real Estate Partners LLC. High Street has partnered with other firms to buy and renovate such properties as the 1,231-room Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, the Hampton Inn Times Square North and Hilton Garden Inn Times Square in New York City, and King Charles Inn in Charleston, South Carolina, among other hotels.
Luminescence Lights Up Fanny Hill
Snowmass Luminescence, a three-month-long activation bringing light, color, and warmth to the mountain. The installation features a series of immersive light and sound activations.
The highlight is “Submergence,” which features 256 strands of light and more than 5,300 individual orbs enveloping viewers in a radiant glow. “Submergence” will accompany “The Tunnel,” a series of six light installations that forms an illuminated walkway on Fanny Hill between Base Village and Snowmass Mall for the duration of the activation. Each installation will offer an entirely new experience: archways of light, kaleidoscope effects and optical illusions are among the interactive designs. Another installation, “Prismatica” by Creos and Raw Design, will pop up for the month of February. Nearly a half-dozen artists from the Roaring Fork Valley will also contribute light displays on the Anderson Ranch Arts Center campus.
The event is nightly from sunset to 9 p.m. through Feb. 28, on Fanny Hill.
Tobacco Tax Funds Schools, Mental Health
The Basalt Town Council showed its support for investing a significant portion of its tobacco tax dollars into Basalt Elementary School and the Aspen Hope Center to further bolster the community’s mental health services, the Aspen Daily News reported. In 2018, Basalt voters overwhelmingly approved a tobacco tax question that went onto levy an additional $2 per pack of cigarettes purchased as well as a 40% tax on all other tobacco products sold in town.
The town has projected that by the end of 2020 it will have collected $480,000 in tobacco tax.
Elected officials are in favor of allocating $100,000 in tobacco tax revenue toward Roaring Fork Schools for three years to fund a mental health/behavioral health therapist in Basalt Elementary School. The Roaring Fork School District has already received marijuana tax dollars from Eagle County and a grant from the Colorado Department of Education, which has paid for mental health services at Basalt Middle School and Basalt High School.
Movieland Shuts Its Doors, Looks for New Tenant
Movieland 7 in El Jebel has closed after three decades of showing motion pictures, the Aspen Times reported. There is a possibility of re-opening, but the owners are advertising the seven-screen space for rent. Like theaters throughout America and the rest of the world, the seven-screen Movieland has been crippled this year by public orders reducing crowd sizes and closing venues because of the pandemic.
Business Changes Afoot Amid Pandemic Restrictions
Many businesses in Carbondale have shifted business models since Covid restrictions have been implemented, the Sopris Sun reported. These include: The Beat scrapped its restaurant service for the time being to operate as a pick-up and delivery grocer; The Crystal Theatre continues to offer concessions to go with at-home movie experiences; Slow Groovin’ BBQ brought its food truck down to the former Red Rock Diner until renovations were complete and it reopened as Honey Butter; Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli closed permanently and the Pour House is shut, at least temporarily.
Sunlight Lodge Transformed into Co-Living Space
With the prospects of running Sunlight Mountain Inn’s full-scale guest lodge on indefinite hold until the public health situation is under better control, Altai Chuluun, founder of GlenX business accelerator, saw it as a vehicle to test the co-living model, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. The lodge is situated at the base of the Sunlight Mountain Resort ski area on Four Mile Road but is separately owned by a group of property investors.
Since late summer, Chuluun and his small staff have been operating the lodge on a very limited scale as the Nergu CoLiving Community. Currently, eight people are living at the Sunlight lodge and either working remotely for existing companies, building a new one or developing various technology ventures.
Budget Remains Flat, Except for Public Health
Pitkin County has budgeted more than $4.2 million toward its public health department in 2021, more than doubling its previous, pre-pandemic levels, the Aspen Daily News reported. At the beginning of 2020, Pitkin County Public Health had an annual budget of just over $2 million. The public health department went from eight to 23 employees in 2020. The additional COVID-related positions include an epidemiologist, case investigators, contact tracers, consumer protection team members and others. At $141.7 million, Pitkin County’s overall 2021 budget only surpassed that of 2020’s by a little over $19,000 because other departments made cuts.
Protocols Set for ESPN Winter X Games
Winter X Games will take place between Jan. 29 and Jan. 31 and will be a strictly televised event, the Aspen Daily News reported. Additionally, no public spectators will be allowed at this year’s X Games. Instead, only a maximum of 500 attendees — made up of athletes, medical personnel, production crews, and security — will be permitted into the fenced-in event at Buttermilk.
If an athlete tests positive, they will not be allowed to compete and will be put into isolation immediately. ESPN will provide its own COVID-19 medical team onsite to minimize any potential staffing burdens, should they arise. Additionally, this year’s X Games will not include any concerts.
RFTA Ridership Increasing
Passengers are back to utilizing the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, even during the time of COVID-19, the Aspen Daily News reported. Average systemwide daily ridership increased by 57% beginning Thanksgiving week compared to the fall season. RFTA will be about five drivers short of its goal of 212 bus operators after the current training period is completed.
All RFTA buses are currently operating at 50% capacity, having seen an increase from the previous 15 passengers allowed. This season, some 92 buses will be needed during what RFTA calls “peak daily pullout.” That compares to 89 vehicles during normal winter operations.
Regional ridership in the upper Roaring Fork Valley is increasing, not surprisingly, because of more employment and the ski areas’ opening.
Woody Creek Tavern Gets New Owners
The venerable and historic Woody Creek Tavern was sold in early December to longtime local restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, the Aspen Daily News reported. The sale adds the Woody Creek staple to Aspen-based CP Restaurant Group’s stable of restaurants, which already included Wild Fig, CP Burger, The Monarch and Steakhouse 316 — with a second Steakhouse 316 in Boulder. A sales price was not disclosed.
Pitkin County Gets More Federal Covid Relief Money
While Pitkin County was expecting to receive about $700,000 from the federal government in the latest round of reimbursements for COVID-19-related expenses, officials were recently notified they would get more than five times that amount, the Aspen Times reported.
And while the nearly $3.9 million in CARES Act funding allocated to Pitkin County and local municipalities in the past few days by state public health officials had to be spent by Dec. 30, officials said. Another $1.3 million in additional COVID-related spending for winter 2021 includes $500,000 for grants to small businesses and $400,000 for nonprofits to distribute to needy individuals and families.