For many Aspenites and Roaring Fork Valley residents, Labor Day weekend means the end of another busy summer season.
But in Snowmass Village, September is “go time”. From mountain biking to wine, Snowmass cultivates a traditional lineup of events each year, with locals and visitors flocking to Town Park, the Village and surrounding venues to partake in treasured pastimes.
This year, four of the events take place on the same weekend. Next weekend, September 16-18, will be the Snowmass Balloon Festival, Snowmass Wine Festival, Golden Leaf Half-Marathon and VIDA MTB Series Flagship Clinic.
Julie Hardman, special events manager for Snowmass Tourism, said the hot air balloon and wine festivals shared the same weekend years ago, and in recent years the wine festival has overlapped with the half marathon. However, she cannot recall a year when all four of these events started on the same weekend.
“But we tend to overlap when we can,” Hardman said. “Because we have so many possibilities for different locations in the village – from the Snowmass Leisure Center to the village proper with the shopping centre, base village and Fanny Hill – it just gives us a lot of opportunities.”
Hardman explained how each event is organized by a different entity. The town of Snowmass Village produces the balloon festival, the Rotary Club runs the wine festival, Golden Leaf is hosted by the city of Aspen, and VIDA is an independent company that partners with the city to bring its bike clinic from mountain for women.
“We touch every event that comes up here based on our permitting process, and then it allows us to juggle and put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Hardman said. “And it’s often an impossible puzzle, but we make it work – like I said, we have the ability to expand.”
Snowmass Director of Tourism Rose Abello said the overlap of events this year was positive. Occurring at different times and places around Snowmass, it offers a bit of something for everyone, she said.
“We would like to call this a vibrant, colorful, exciting September and something for everyone,” Abello said. “I think of it as all the different opportunities we give people.”
Abello talked about the traditional appeal of these events, and specifically the Snowmass Balloon Festival. Entering its 47th anniversary, the three-day festival features more than 30 hot air balloons that take off each morning from Snowmass Town Park. The public is invited to watch the balloons take off and land from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday, as well as attend the more recently added nighttime event on Friday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
From watching from the balloon launch site in Town Park to hiking and biking in an elevated area, there are many different ways to experience the annual festival, Abello said.
“The hot air balloon festival has had this very rich history and it is really appreciated,” said Abello. “And the good thing is that people can come and experience the festival and have the whole day to explore because at 9.30am you are on your next activity.”
The Golden Leaf Half Marathon has this draw similar to tradition, with a very loyal following, Abello said. She mentioned that the trail run sells out every year on the day it goes on sale. Listed by Trail Runner Magazine as one of “America’s 14 Most Scenic Runs,” the 13.1-mile half marathon begins at Snowmass on Fanny Hill and follows the single-track Government Trail to Buttermilk, then connects to Aspen.
“It’s on every Colorado trail runner’s bucket list, and some of them do it every year — it has a massive repeat rate,” Abello said. “I mean, running between Aspen trees when they’re golden is just magical.”
This year’s race takes place on Saturday (September 17). After crossing the finish line in Aspen’s Koch Park, many runners will return to Snowmass City Park to celebrate the Wine Festival.
Back for its 20th year, the wine festival is a favorite with locals. It kicks off Friday, September 16 with a four-course wine dinner and reception at Viceroy Snowmass, which again followed its early-sale model this year.
The Grand Tasting main event, featuring wines from around the world, is held in the marquees set up in Town Park on Saturday, September 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. This year’s festival features celebrity chef Suzie Jimenez, which associates its creations with Mico Tequila & Seltzers. Advance tickets for Saturday’s tasting are still available at $115 per person ($125 on the day of the event), and all proceeds are used for scholarships and grants through Snowmass Rotary.
Abello described the wine festival as “hyperlocal,” saying that while people from all over the valley will attend, many attendees are Snowmass residents.
“That being said, I think all of the September offerings are really appealing to locals — the people of Snowmass Village and the people of Roaring Fork Valley as well,” Abello said.
She added that events are also destination drivers, especially ones like the VIDA MTB series. Although the women-only mountain bike clinic welcomes local participants every year, it primarily attracts destination guests, Abello said.
Given Snowmass’ strong slate of events, starting with the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience and continuing throughout the month, Snowmass September feels a lot like Aspen June. And the Snowmass occupancy numbers show it just as much.
Occupancy trends have increased over the years at Snowmass throughout September, Abello said. However, she noted that inconsistencies in data collection are common for September – trends waver depending on when the JAS music festival falls each year, either late August or early September.
Regardless, Abello and Hardman commented on the traditional stability of events brought by Snowmass in September and the continued growth of the month in terms of occupancy reports.
“Historically, our September schedule has been the most consistent of any month with our events,” Hardman said. “I mean, that’s pretty much a full month of events happening, you know, over the last five years and beyond.”
Hardman mentioned that the newest addition to the September schedule is the Colorado High School Cycling League cross-country mountain bike races, which return to Fanny Hill for its third year on September 24-25. The two-day event brings approximately 600 student athletes from Colorado and New Mexico to Snowmass for categorized races throughout the day, and the public is invited to watch and support the young runners.
“At the end of the day, it’s one of the most glorious times of the year,” Abello said. “For all of us who live here, it’s one of everyone’s favorite months, and if you visited in September, you know you want to come back.”
For more information on the Snowmass September event lineup, visit gosnowmass.com.