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January 31, 2013
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February events to boost business

VAIL - More than two-thirds of Vail's sales tax pie is baked in the winter, but there's always room for the pie to get bigger - that's the point of two events coming to Vail in February.

The events are very different. The Winter Mountain Games, the winter counterpart to the successful summer Mountain Games, is still in its infancy. The Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships is a big dog in winter sports, an established event coming to Vail for the first time this year after 30 years in Vermont.

Despite the differences, both are intended to fill a couple of relative soft spots in Vail's winter calendar. The Mountain Games come between a pair of traditionally busy three-day weekends - January's Martin Luther King birthday holiday and Presidents Day in February. The Burton event comes after Presidents Day, but before the spring break crowds hit in March.

But with Vail's relatively recent focus on summer events, does the town need winter events, too? Laurie Mullen has a quick answer:

"We're not sold out every day," said Mullen, co-owner of West Vail Liquor Mart and a member of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.

Mullen said hotel occupancy reports show a clear jump from year to year on dates when there are events in town. With the Burton event coming for the first time, "It will be fun to see how that affects (occupancy)," she said.

Beyond generating immediate business, events like Burton and the Mountain Games can help Vail's "brand" evolve.

Adam Sutner, a consultant to the marketing district and Vail Mountain's former marketing director, said the Burton event is likely to draw new visitors to Vail.

"It's a strategic investment," Sutner said. "That's the type of thing a leading brand does."

Burton apparently agrees.

"There are 400-some resorts (in the United States) and they chose us," Sutner said.

While Vail's economic development groups usually focuses on summer business, Sutner said those groups aim to build business all year.

That's also the Vail Valley Foundation's goal with the Winter Games. The summer and winter events used to be sponsored by footwear maker Teva, but that company pulled its sponsorship last year. Until a new title sponsor is found, the events will be called "winter" and "summer."

While the Winter Games will draw people from outside the valley, Vail Valley Foundation Vice President of Communications John Dakin said local residents will be able to play on the same slopes, walls and courses. Dakin said that's part of the Foundation's information mission of "bringing the world to the Vail Valley and the Vail Valley to the world."

Part of that means local athletes can line up with the professionals at many events.

"We're giving people the opportunity to do that," Dakin said.

It also gives the Foundation's volunteer corps yet an opportunity to meet participants in new events, and a chance to work the volunteer system - albeit on a much smaller scale - in the two-year run-up to the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.

"It's really about quality of life for residents and guests," Dakin said of events the Foundation sponsors. "It makes the valley a better place to be."

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 31, 2013 06:21PM Published Jan 31, 2013 06:17PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.