Birds of Prey provides push for Vail Valley businesses
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Buzz Busby and the Coyote Cafe are gearing up for a busy week in Colorado’s Vail Valley.The annual Birds of Prey World Cup race in Beaver Creek brings the biggest crowd of the year to the bar and restaurant, said Busby, its manager. Patrons spill out into a tent that’s set up on the Coyote’s deck.”Definitely, Friday and Saturday are off the charts,” Busby said. “At least double or more of the busiest days we see in the winter.”The Birds of Prey races return to Beaver Creek this week, bringing the best ski racers in the world to the Vail Valley. With the racers come coaches, technicians, journalists and spectators. They need hotel rooms, meals and ski passes. The result is an economic bump for the Vail Valley.”It’s a very significant impact on lodging, restaurant and retail during that week, a time that traditionally would be a kind of slow week, post-Thanksgiving and pre-Christmas,” said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company. “It provides a real spike in business activity in Beaver Creek.”O’Rourke put the direct economic impact in the millions of dollars. Hotels are close to capacity during the week, he said.There may be even a bigger splash this year because it’s an Olympic year. More media members – 206 so far – and more athletes are expected at Birds of Prey in the run up to February’s Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, said John Dakin, vice president of communications for the Vail Valley Foundation, which organizes the event.About 5,000 spectators are usually seen during the weekday events, and about 8,000 are seen for the weekend events, Dakin said.”There’s a fairly significant contingent of international travelers who come for the events both in Canada and Aspen and then here,” Dakin said. “There’s also a number of people who come from throughout the United States to be spectators or be volunteers.”Perhaps more significant than the direct economic impact is the benefit of the media exposure that Beaver Creek gets from the event, which is broadcast live during primetime in Europe.”It sends out the message that Beaver Creek has great snow and is ready for a great ski season,” O’Rourke said. “Just the general publicity we get for hosting the only men’s World Cup in North America.”For instance, in an article this week in The New York Times, racer Aksel Lund Svindal discussed his crash at Beaver Creek two years ago, then his triumphant return to win the super-G and downhill here last year.”Nothing comes close to Beaver Creek,” Svindal was quoted as saying in the article.”You can’t buy that publicity,” O’Rourke said.Much of the World Cup publicity is aimed at the Europe, where the popularity of the World Cup is akin to that of baseball or football here. From Beaver Creek’s perspective, those prospective ski-vacation visitors from Europe are highly prized for the amount of money they tend to spend here.Heavy snow during race week is a bane for the race crew and can cancel races. On the flip side, it can be a good thing for promoting the resort.”That’s been the case since day one, in 1989, when we had to postpone the men’s downhill because of too much snow,” Dakin said. “All the foreign correspondents were talking about how we wouldn’t be racing today, standing waist deep in snow. And Europe was in the midst of a snow drought.”From Vail Resorts’ perspective, the World Cup allows the company to position Beaver Creek as a world-class destination resort, said John Garnsey, chief operating officer of Beaver Creek and co-president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division. Also, the Birds of Prey course, regarded as one of the most difficult on the World Cup circuit, lets Beaver Creek showcase the diversity of its terrain.”That piece of it is very valuable to us,” he said.Bob Trotter, general manager of the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, said the hotel gets a good push from the event. While many athletes stay at the hotel as part of its sponsorship of the event, many more guests come simply to watch the event.”My real comment would be the economic impact of the Birds of Prey goes far beyond the weekend,” Trotter said. “It’s really the exposure we get for Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley on the world skiing circuit and Europe. With the relationship of the (weak) dollar to the euro these days, I think it’s going to have a very positive impact on tourism to our area.”Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or email@example.com.