saturday market

Aspen’s much-loved Saturday Market, pictured in pre-pandemic times. Local officials, leaders and business owners are bracing for what is seemingly shaping up to be Aspen’s busiest summer ever. 

All signs across industries — hospitality, lodging, entertainment, real estate, travel and more — suggest that Aspen is in for its busiest summer ever. This narrative was expressed repeatedly Tuesday by representatives of the aforementioned sectors during the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s Board of Directors meeting.

“As we [were talking about] when this meeting was just getting started, we believe we’ll have the largest summer in our history,” said Mitch Osur, Aspen director of parking and downtown services. “Everything points to lots of people traveling; we talked about airline business being up. [ACRA board member and The Gant General Manager] Donnie Lee was talking about how great business is looking from a hotel point of view, with longer stays. It’s going to be a busy, busy summer, and we’re quite excited about that.”

And it’s not just summer, either. The month of September is already shaping up to be extremely busy in Aspen and Snowmass Village, starting with Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day festival, followed by the Food & Wine Classic — tickets to which sold out in a matter of days. Plans to host a number of other events in September — including Ruggerfest and the Snowmass wine and balloon festivals — are also in the works.  

“September will be June,” Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello said at the meeting Tuesday. “September will be really, really busy.”

Of note, the town of Snowmass is currently working on an event safety plan for its beloved Thursday night concerts on Fanny Hill this summer, Abello said.

Other celebrated local pastimes slated for a “normal” return this summer include the Aspen Saturday Market and performances from the Aspen Music Festival and School.

“The way everything is going, at this stage, we’re expecting the Saturday Market to be exactly like it was in 2019,” Osur said. The only exceptions, he said, are requesting vendors to wear masks and maintain “some distance” between tents. 

This year’s Saturday Market is set to feature 52 artisans and 18 agricultural vendors for a total of 70 booths. Osur emphasized how the market — slated this summer and fall from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 12 to Oct. 9 — is loved by locals and tourists alike. “We’re excited to bring it back in its fullest,” he said.

Alan Fletcher, CEO and president of Aspen Music Festival and School, said Tuesday the nonprofit is “super stoked” for the summer season, which will include multiple events seven days a week. Tickets will go on sale mid-May. 

Representing the Aspen Institute, ACRA Board of Director Chair Cristal Logan shared, “We’re planning to host as many in-person events as we can this summer.”

Down the road, Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is positioned to set a record for most daily flights this summer. Effective June 3, the airport will offer 23 flights daily and 24 on Saturdays, according to local air transportation consultant Bill Tomcich. 

“It’s more flights than we’ve ever had before, even going back to 2019,” said Tomcich, who works with the group Fly Aspen Snowmass, a partnership between the airport, SkiCo, Aspen Chamber Resort ­Association and Snowmass Tourism. The most flights per day in 2019 was 20, he said.

On behalf of the lodging community, Lee offered Tuesday, “What we have on the books today, the pace at which it’s coming in, we can confirm, the summer is going to be busy. It’s not a question; it’s going to be very busy.”

Lee continued: “We’re seeing that even in the real estate community with advanced rentals for private homes and things of that nature are basically already sold out. And the same is true with what we’re seeing with condominiums and hotels.”

While no one seemed to question that the uppervalley will be busy this summer, Aspen Mayor Torre encouraged residents to “keep Aspen the special place that it is.”

“We’re going to be challenged. And I think a lot of us, over the years, have seen the Aspen experience changing a little bit, our visitorship, and maybe overcrowding at times has impacted some of our enjoyment here, and that’s OK – we can deal with it, but I think we need to do it right this year. we really need to be focused on maintaining a quality Aspen experience,” Torre said. “Let’s not get overrun and out-boxed by our visitors. Let’s make sure that we’re in control of how we’re handling that and just [putting] our best forward. We’re going to be focused on that from the city side as well.”

Erica Robbie is a contributing editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at erica@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @ericarobbie.