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When winter comes, so do changes for the arts scene

Patrick Fort
Aspen Public Radio

Lots of people are coming into town now that skiing is back. Hotels are going to be running at full capacity soon enough, but the arts scene also has to ramp up for the high-season.

Peach’s Corner Cafe in Aspen is almost always busy. If you try coming here at lunch, the line is usually at least to the door. Even in October.


Servers yell out order numbers, and baristas make sure to let you know that your soy chai latte is ready.


But if you think that’s busy, just wait until the skiers and winter tourists come.


“I used to have a guy that used to work here and he used to be prepared,” says Hugo Sanchez, a manager at the restaurant. “Whenever we got a line, he would steam to big pitchers of milk, and he’s like ‘I know hot chocolates are coming! Let’s do it.’”

This will be Hugo’s second winter in Aspen, and on a normal day during the slower months, he might use nine of ten gallons of milk to make anything from hot chocolate to cappuccinos and lattes. In the winter, they use almost double that amount.


“We stock up,” says Sanchez. “We buy more milk for the lattes and cappuccinos. We buy more chocolate, and we buy more cups. We stock up on everything. We know it’s coming and we try to prepare.”


When more people are around, that’s more money coming in to your store. That’s just basic economics. At Peach’s, that could be two or three times as much revenue compared to the off season.. But it isn’t just service industries, like restaurants and hotels, that have to prepare for the busy season. Art organizations and venues have to prepare just as much as Hugo and his staff do.


Christina Brusig, executive director for Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, has noticed a big change in the way her group has had to operate in the winter over the last few years. They have expanded their hours from just Monday through Friday, to Saturday as well.


“As the economy has recovered, the need for additional space for parties has been really prevalent in the community,” says Brusig. “Last year we were not open on the weekends, but the need was there. We decided to fulfill that need and open up on Saturdays.”


Though Glenwood Springs might not have the allure that ski towns across the state do as far as being a resort location reliant on tourism, Brusig says that the town is able to  stay strong year-round.


“Even though it’s not in the upper part of the Roaring Fork Valley, it is consistently vibrant and it is one of the most traveled to places in the country.”

Even with consistent business and foot traffic, the additional hours that the Center added have been well worth their while. Christina says it’s because of the holiday shopping season.

“With that one extra day of the week, it’s amazing how many people shop on Saturdays and can’t make it into our regular office hours Monday through Friday,” she says. “It provides a bit of extra exposure for us and our exhibiting artists.”


In Aspen, the town’s biggest concert venue goes from 100 to 0, and then back up to 100 when winter returns.


Danny Goldberg is one of the owners and a talent buyer at Belly Up Aspen.   


“Once we get into the winter time we’re gonna go ‘this is what we did in the off-season,’” says Goldberg. “We still have the same objective. We’re still trying to put in soldout shows. We’re still trying to give the local audience here the best acts possible.”

But when the crowds aren’t there, it’s hard to get big names to come in. A common theme, he says, is that people don’t want to go if they don’t hear a lot of buzz.


“If it’s not the hottest thing in town, they’d rather save their money,” he says. “(They’ll) try to do something fun. Whether that’s going to Moab, or just relaxing at their house and save money. I think that’s a reasonable answer that people give me.”


And a lot of the time it takes some slick negotiating on his part to get people to come here. Aspen isn’t cheap. It isn’t easily accessible. Sometimes, he’ll rely on trying to get bands who are playing Red Rocks to come and play a few “warm-up” shows in Aspen.


But for other groups though, they want to come to Aspen to ski and get away. Treat the stop as a bit of a working vacation. The cost of getting a band up here means high ticket prices, which means big bucks for the venue and the artist.      


Still, Hugo Sanchez, the manager at Peach’s, has to figure out how much to increase his staff. He says that he’ll go from 6 to 10 during the winter. He relies relies on seasonal employees, including a few high-school kids. But even with new faces and more people to keep him and his co workers busy, the job can still get a little bit monotonous.

“In the summertime, it’s the smoothies,” he says laughing. “Everybody gets smoothies because it’s hot. In the winter, it’s hot chocolates. Everyone get’s hot chocolates. It’ll be a line of hot chocolates out the door. It’ll be a little annoying like, ‘give me something different!’”