Season extension will inconvenience some
VAIL — There’s no business like snow business — unless you’re a farmer. That means there are times when advance planning goes in the trash in order to react to what nature brings.
This happened at Vail during the past week. Business owners and employees had lunch on March 29 knowing that Vail Mountain would close April 10. Those people had breakfast the next day knowing that the mountain would be open another week, thanks to abundant recent snowfall.
“The snow kept getting better and getting better,” Vail Mountain Executive Vice President and CEO Chris Jarnot said. “We wanted to give our pass holders a chance to enjoy it.”
As of April 1, Vail Mountain reported a 77-inch mid-mountain base. Early last week, the mountain had received more than two feet of snow since March 22, and the snow gauges were reporting another seven inches of new snow since March 30.
“This is one of those great Marches,” Jarnot said. “These don’t come around very often.”
News of the extra week of skiing was welcomed in Vail, but it’s going to take some doing to keep both the town and mountain humming for those extra days.
“It resulted in some changed plans for us,” town of Vail Transit and Parking Manager Mike Rose said. “We’re not going to be fully staffed by any means.”
Still, Rose said, the booths at the town’s Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures will remain staffed 24 hours a day during the extra week, and there may be some adjustments made to bus schedules.
Making the adjustments “wasn’t bad,” Rose said. “But it took us three or four days to figure everything out. We’re going to have to spend some overtime to do it.”
That’s because a number of seasonal employees have already made plans to go on vacation as of April 11. And plane tickets or hotel reservations can be hard to change.
Making An Extra Effort
Local lodges are also putting some extra effort into attracting new visitors for the week.
“They need to be very targeted (in their marketing) — I wouldn’t put a lot of resources into it,” Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said. The Partnership, the valley-wide chamber of commerce and a major reservations service, had seen several, but not a lot of, new reservations a few days since the season-extension announcement was made.
That’s been the case at the Antlers Lodge in Lionshead. There, general manager Rob LeVine said that lodge has joined a handful of other properties in town in putting out email blasts to prospective guests.
“When it was first announced, our collective mentality was, ‘Let’s ignore this,’” LeVine said of the extra week. “We stay open anyway.”
But, LeVine said, a bit of a marketing push could bring some new guests to the lodge for the week.
There are some businesses that had planned to close that will stay closed. At Blue Moose Pizza in Lionshead Village, a construction project will start April 11 that will keep the restaurant closed.
We couldn’t open anyway,” said Sarah Franke, director of marketing for Group 970 Restaurants, which owns the Blue Moose locations in Vail and Beaver Creek.
While news of the extra week of skiing was broadly welcomed, some wondered why the announcement couldn’t have come a couple of weeks sooner than it did.
“It’s a great thing for locals and guests, but the timing was kind of questionable,” Vail Mayor and Vendetta’s Restaurant co-owner Dave Chapin said. “It’s a real win-win for the whole valley, but it puts a stress on Vail Village and Lionshead businesses as far as staffing goes.”
Jarnot said the announcement of the extra week was made entirely in response to the snow that kept coming.
“We weren’t planning to extend — we planned to close April 10,” Jarnot said. “But the snow just got so much better.
“There’s lift projects we’d like to start, roads we need to plow and work on Epic Discovery (summer programs) — we’re inconveniencing ourselves, too,” Jarnot said. “But we’re a ski resort — skiing is what we do here.”