EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Concerts, events, and, oh yes, a foot of new powder helped put an exclamation mark on the 2012-13 ski season in the Vail Valley. And the season as a whole has been a good one.The Vail Cascade Resort & Spa was booked solid for the weekend, which general manager Brett Schoenfield said was a relief after last season. The two seasons were proof that those of us in the ski resort business are little more than "snow farmers," whose livelihoods depend largely on the weather, Schoenfield said.The 2012-13 season wasn't a "high water mark" for the resort, Schoenfield said, "but the snow fell in timely measure."Compared to last season, when the spring runoff was already under way by the time Vail Mountain closed, Schoenfield said the season just ended was "super."The season was a good one for the Loaded Joe's coffee shops in Vail and Avon."Saturday was particularly monstrous (in Vail)," general manger Brandt Olsen said. But this season showed a marked difference in business at the two locations, Olsen said."Usually, when Vail has such strong events, Avon's been slow," Olsen said. "Not this year - both stores were busy."The final weekend was also a good one for Buzz's Boards on its last days of the season.Monday, Nick Szydlowski was taking the last inventory of the 2012-13 season. The quiet of the store was a contrast to the previous few days."It was a good weekend for all of us (in Vail Village)," Szydlowski said. While Buzz's was busy, the store didn't do a huge rental business over the last weekend. But, Szydlowski said, "It was a great year. I'm ready for next year."Again, that's a marked contrast to the way last season ended.The Mountain Travel Research Program studies the ebbs and flows of the ski resort business. Company founder Ralf Garrison said the two seasons peaked at virtually opposite times."Last season started strong, and ended on what you might call a 'de-crescendo,'" Garrison said. "This season started slow - we're calling it the 'December divot' - and then crescendoed in March."Since Easter is usually a high-water point in most ski seasons, April often brings a falloff in business. This year, the mountains stayed open past the end of winter flights into the Eagle County Regional Airport. That meant most of the late-season business ended up coming from either second-home owners or Front Range skiers."In a few locations, the 11th-hour reservations came in," Garrison said. "But April, on a whole, is probably down this year."Some of those late reservations came in at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon.Kristen Pryor, the Westin's sales and marketing director, said as many as 40 room reservations came in just last week, from people either headed to Vail's final-weekend events, or coming for the late season snow.But the closing-weekend powder meant some lodges had unexpected guests past closing time.The Four Seasons Resort in Vail was supposed to close Monday for some between-seasons cleaning and maintenance. But general manager Mark Herron said the hotel was still open for guests who couldn't get out of town Monday. Some of those guests were actually hotel employees stuck in Vail and unable to get home."We've got people trying to get here from everywhere from Eagle to Dillon," Herron said.The Four Seasons just finished its second ski season, but Herron said the hotel finished the ski season up in all categories from its first year.Herron said the hotel expected to be about half full for closing weekend. It finished the season about 90 percent full.Those pleasant surprises came through the season, Herron said."It seems like every week played a different role," Herron said.The Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships brought brand-new business, Herron said, and other weeks, especially in March, brought guests from different locations."We'd have spring break families from New York one week and from Los Angeles the next," he said.And, through it all, well-timed snow and a good grooming staff kept the mountain skiing well."They made the snow, and they kept the snow where it needed to be," Herron said. "I give them a lot of credit."And now it's time to move into the next season."We're already beginning the process of transitioning seasons," Schoenfield said. "We're looking forward to it."
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