EAGLE COUNTY - People want to ski on fresh snow. For proof, look no further than activity at Vail and Beaver Creek a day or two after the resorts received the better part of a foot of new snow.
Vail's parking structures - which haven't filled very often since the contractors' trucks have pulled out - were full by 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The structures didn't fill Sunday, but they came close, said Gilbert Gonzales of the town of Vail's transportation department.
The valley's lodges also saw plenty of last-minute bookings, as Front Range skiers braved both weather and traffic to hit the slopes.
"In 36 hours our bookings jumped 35 percent (for the weekend)," Avon Comfort Inn General Manager Emily Ravn said. "And a lot of people just walked in."
The days when phone lines lit up after a big storm have been replaced by Internet hits, but Ravn said the web hits started coming about the time Denver TV stations reported big snow in the high country.
Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals' President James Bengala had a similar story.
"We had a lot of two- and three-night stays from people wanting to ski Vail and Breckenridge," Bengala said.
And at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, Kirsten Texler, who handles public relations and communications for the lodge, e-mailed a two-word reply to a question about weekend business - "Sold out!"
The Vail Valley Partnership's Vail on Sale website, which books rooms all over the Vail Valley three weeks or less in advance, showed a good jump for the weekend, too.
And that jump came for more than just this past weekend.
Partnership director Chris Romer said Vail on Sale bookings for February are starting to pick up. While the website's January numbers lag "modestly" behind reservations taken in the first month of 2011, Romer said February bookings have started to pick up over the past few days.
The reason is simple: People want to ski, and conditions finally are good enough for a day or weekend trip. And people are willing to spend - even at holiday weekend rates - if the conditions warrant.
Bengala said the price peaks for resort lodging come over Christmas and New Year's, followed by Presidents Day, spring break periods and Easter.
"People have heard the negative reviews," Bengala said. "It's a lot of money (for lodging) if the conditions aren't good. Now, people want some sort of a discount, but they're still willing to pay if the conditions are there."
At Manor Vail Lodge, general manager Bob McCleary said he's seeing signs that February could be a good month.
"People are starting to talk about snow again," McCleary said. And a combination of a good storm just before the weekend, along with a bit of snow falling during ESPN's Friday broadcast from the Winter X Games in Aspen, "helps dispel the idea that we don't have any snow."
At the Comfort Inn, Ravn said that lodge is starting to see more reservations for February, too, either from Vail on Sale or the Comfort Inn's corporate website.
"The Presidents Weekend wasn't looking good, but it's starting to pick up now," Ravn said. "So bring on more snow."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.