EAGLE COUNTY — Snow matters, and strong early season snowfall drove countywide sales taxes to a January record.
Across Eagle County, shoppers pumped $1.6 million into sales tax coffers in January, more than $200,000 ahead of January 2013.
Retailers, from whom all these blessings flow, are cautiously optimistic.
Dave Gorsuch watches these sort of trends carefully, and says it’s a combination of snow and economics.
“We’ve had a good year. It seems like most people have had a pretty good winter. At least I haven’t heard too many people moaning,” Gorsuch said.
Colorado in general and Vail/Beaver Creek in particular had good early season snow, while early snow in Utah and Lake Tahoe was thin.
“The ski industry had a pretty good year, especially in Colorado and specifically in Vail. A few people in Utah didn’t have a good start to the season,” Gorsuch said.
Eagle County controller Tom Hyatt explains that a budget is a prediction. He looks at the prior year and, considering the economy’s general strength, as well as the relative strength of specific indicators, establishes a budget for each specific month.
Because Eagle County’s economy is so cyclical, budget comparisons are made for specific months. Also, because there’s a two month delay in collecting and reporting sales tax figures, January’s numbers weren’t available until March.
When those numbers rolled in, they were a new record for January.
Several things contribute to that.
First, early season snow was excellent, with storms pounding Vail and Beaver Creek both early and late in the season.
Meanwhile, early season snow in Utah and Lake Tahoe was thin, and that sent some skiers to our area. Visitors migrated the other way a couple years ago, when Tahoe’s and Utah’s snow was deep, and Vail’s early season snow started slowly.
Sally Lorton is Vail’s sales tax administrator. She posted Vail’s January numbers on March 25, and they were up 7 percent from the prior January.
“We’ve been having record months for a while,” Lorton said.
Vail’s February’s final numbers aren’t in yet, but based on the numbers they have so far, February 2014 set another record February, Lorton said.
In fact, to find a month that wasn’t a record in Vail, you have to go back to May 2013.
“When Vail’s redevelopment wrapped up, their sales taxes have significantly improved,” Hyatt said.
That construction, coupled with the economic collapse beginning in 2007, saw unincorporated Eagle County move ahead of Vail in sales tax collections for 2007-2009. Unincorporated Eagle County includes Beaver Creek.
Things returned to their natural order in 2010 as Vail moved back to the front as the area’s top economic engine.
Speaking of construction, while real estate sales continue to improve, the construction industry is still flat, so not much sale tax revenue is being generated by the sale of lumber and construction supplies in unincorporated Eagle County, Hyatt pointed out.
The trend is reflected in nationwide data from the SnowSports Industries America, the snow sports industry’s member-owned trade association.
They track 1,200 snow sports retailers across the country and found that in January the snow sports retail market was up 4 percent in units sold, and up 7 percent in dollars sold to $2.8 billion for all equipment, apparel and accessories.
Between August 2013 and January, snow sports retailers brought in $178 million more than in the same period the prior year, despite weather conditions that disrupted snow sports retail markets.
Drought conditions in the Pacific West and record cold snaps in the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and as far south as Baton Rouge, La., had both positive and negative impacts on snow sports retail sales in January.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The ski industry had a pretty good year, especially in Colorado and specifically in Vail. A few people in Utah didn’t have a good start to the season.”