VAIL - As you've strolled around Vail's streets during the past week, you may have noticed a lot of Spanish being spoken around town.
The Mexican holidays of Semana Santa, the week preceding Easter, and Semana Pasqua, the week following Easter, are under way, a time when many Mexican families take time off and travel. Turns out, many of them choose Vail as their destination.
Why Vail? Well, for one, it's tradition to travel here. Mexican families have been coming to Vail since the 1960s, and now, generation after generation continue to travel here.
"It's traditional - everybody comes to Vail," said Ale Bidales, from Playa del Carmen.
Pat Barrett, Vail Resorts' international public-relations manager, said some visitors from Mexico who have been coming to Vail since the 1960s have since founded travel agencies in Mexico and have sent thousands of guests to Vail over the past four decades.
Vail Resorts also sends its marketing and public-relations people down to Mexico about once a month during the winter months to drum up business and maintain the relationship with its Mexican clientele.
And this season especially, with a late Easter and one of the latest Vail closing dates ever, the Mexican business during Semana Santa was "of paramount interest to us," said Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner.
Vail Resorts began marketing the Semana Santa travel week in Mexico very heavily toward the beginning of the season. Because the mountain closes on Easter Sunday this year, Vail Resorts saw a potential challenge in making sure the Mexican market understood that Vail would be open and the experience would be just as good as in previous seasons when Easter had been much earlier.
Bidales said she knows of many Mexican families who canceled their trips because they thought there wouldn't be enough good snow this late in the season. She said she's happy they didn't cancel their trip because it's been snowing ever since they arrived and the ski conditions have been great.
Cesar Bidales, Ale's father, said Vail is a familiar atmosphere. The week of Semana Santa makes Vail even more familiar, as Mexican families ski and walk through town, often running into friends from home.
"Yesterday, I ran into a friend from Playa del Carmen," Cesar Bidales said.
And why Vail over places such as Deer Valley, Utah, Aspen, Steamboat Springs or even Whistler, British Columbia?
"Basically, it's not so far from Mexico," said Jorge Todd, from Mexico City. "We know Whistler in Canada is a really good resort, but Vail is closer and it's easier for us to just come to Vail."
Todd said he usually tries to get on the nonstop flight from Mexico City to Denver, which is about a three-hour flight. If he can't get on the nonstop, he said there are usually flights that have just one connection in Houston or Phoenix.
Todd has been coming to Vail for years. He loves the weather and the ski resort, especially the runs in Blue Sky Basin and Vail's Back Bowls.
"I like the night life, the restaurants, too," Todd said. "It's just a good environment."
Just because Vail is a quick and easy flight from Mexico and Mexicans seem to love Vail so much, Sutner has said the Vail community should never take its Mexican business for granted.
The Eagle County airport and local businesses and groups who support flight programs there are studying the feasibility of adding an international terminal that would be able to accommodate direct flights from Mexico City. Many direct flights already arrive at the Gypsum airport on private charters, but an international terminal would mean commercial flights could come in.
Many Mexican families that visit Vail are extremely wealthy and have bought many high-dollar homes in Vail, including several recent condominium purchases at Vail's new luxury properties, such as the Ritz-Carlton Residences and Solaris.
And it's especially because they're homeowners and taxpayers that Sutner said they deserve a warm welcome every time they're here.
Based on the reaction from some of the families in town for Semana Santa, they do feel welcome.
"The people are nice," Cesar Bidales said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or