Burton US Open in Vail a boon for some businesses
Vail's event strategy is to benefit the entire business community over the course of a year
VAIL — Ask Larry Leith about the Burton US Open Snowboard Championships, and you can hear his smile over the phone.
Leith owns the Yeti’s Grind coffee shop in Vail Village. The event is a big deal for his shop.
“It’s wonderful for us,” Leith said. Burton, he said, is “right in there” with the GoPro Mountain Games in terms of putting people into his shop.
The boost in business is a big part of the reason the town of Vail puts money into the annual event. This year’s contribution is $490,000.
Helping events is a big part of the town’s business strategy. The town council, through the general fund, every year supports big events including the Bravo! Vail Music Festival and the Vail Dance Festival. The town, through its Commission on Special Events, supports other events.
“We want to make sure we have a diverse group of events year ‘round,” commission member Alison Wadey said. That means that over the course of the year, Vail has something for a broad range of guests.
Wadey said Burton is a “prestigious” event.
“It’s great for our brand, and it brings athletes to town who might not come otherwise,” she added.
Still, a Burton crowd and a Bravo audience are pretty different in terms of where — or if — they stay, and what they might buy when they’re in town.
Claggett-Rey Gallery owner Bill Rey questioned whether the crowds for Burton bring much to the local economy over and above normal activity.
Still, he said, “I think it’s neat that we have it here.” But he added, will the people attending this year’s event come back when they’re in their 40s and 50s?
Rey said his business sees people who attend classical music or dance events, some of whom are in Vail for the entire seven-week run of those festivals.
Bravo in particular “brings a spending crowd that comes for a committed period of time,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged, events have to appeal to all kinds of audiences.
And, given the number of concerts and other events throughout the year, Rey said, “we probably don’t know how good we have it.”
At the Squash Blossom gallery in Vail Village, co-owner Hilary Manger said she’s a fan of the town’s events.
“People like to poo-poo events,” Manger said. “My stance is that (Burton) is a community/nationwide event. It’s super cool that Vail gets to have that.”
Burton and other events lure people to town, Manger said. That includes local residents who don’t often make it into Vail.
“My son asked me ‘When can we go?’” Manger said.
Looking at the town’s event portfolio involves more than just looking at the number of people who attend.
“We look at who’s coming,” Wadey said, adding that the commission looks at demographic profiles of people who come to events to create the mix commission members are looking for.
It seems to be working.
“I know plenty of people who come (to Vail) and go to the concerts,” Rey said. And those concerts, many of which are free, are also a draw for people who work in town, he added.
And, while Burton is focused mostly at Golden Peak and into Vail Village Wadey said the impact is felt across town.
“I was talking to a Lionshead bar owner the other day, and his Burton Friday through Sunday is always his biggest weekend of the year, except when St. Patrick’s Day is on a weekend,” Wadey said. That’s the intent for all events, Wadey said, adding, “We have to make sure we’re balancing that out correctly.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.