The debut of The Apres music festival at the base of Buttermilk Ski Area had some businesspeople humming a happy tune over what usually is considered one of the slowest weekends of the ski season.
“We definitely saw a jump in business from the festival,” said Tom Van Amburgh of New York Pizza, an upstairs restaurant located on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall. “And it was definitely our demographic, which is great.”
Highlighted by jam bands Umphrey’s McGee on April 5 and The String Cheese Incident April 6 and 7, the festival was staged by Aspen Skiing Co., which announced the event Jan. 28. Skico put the festival on in collaboration with the Belly Up music club, which also hosted the headliners April 3 to 5 to sold-out crowds.
Skico sold three-day music passes to the Buttermilk concerts for $79.99 and also offered a $199.99 three-day music pass with a two-day lift ticket valid during the event. The festival was hosted during Buttermilk’s closing weekend.
Skico would not release attendance figures, paid or otherwise, from the festival. The venue has a capacity of 10,000, but it was indisputably not full.
“We had a good turnout for a first-year event,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “In general, we feel like we accomplished our goals of bringing people into Aspen-Snowmass on a quiet weekend and providing a fun experience that blended music, skiing and everything we have to offer.
“Skier visits were strong that weekend, and we are waiting to see the next occupancy report to see how that looks, but that also looked strong leading in to the event.”
In mid-February, Skico’s reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass said advance booking rooms during the time of the festival were up 7.3 percent, after being down in its Dec. 31 report, which came before the festival had been announced.
Aspen Mountain Lodge was one beneficiary of the festival, selling out all of its 38 rooms over the weekend.
“We were literally full every night The Apres was happening,” said lodge operator Bob Morris. “And we never would have had that — maybe a 25 to 30 percent occupancy.”
During the first weekend of April, Morris said lodges typically “race to the bottom” with their room rates, but not during the Apres Festival.
“We benefited twofold,” he said. “No. 1, we had a tremendous surge in occupancy, and our daily rate was very healthy compared to it being a loss-leader during the same time of the year.”
Most of the reservations were advanced bookings, Morris said, noting that a majority of the guests drove to Aspen.
Morris urged Skico to bring back the festival.
“Make this a permanent event,” he said. “It was such a success. It was a tremendous draw, and I thank the powers that be that organized this event.”