Burton US Open, Spring Back to Vail show room to grow
Town council is bullish on Burton event in early March, raises concerns about spring celebration
- 21,400: Unique spectators at the 2019 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships.
- 22,200: Unique spectators at the 2017 event.
- 49,945: Estimated in-town attendance at all Spring Back to Vail events.
- $300,000: The town’s contribution to 2019 Spring Back events.
VAIL — The Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships has quickly established itself as one of Vail’s premier events. There are more questions to answer regarding the annual Spring Back to Vail celebration.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday heard updates about both events. For this year’s Burton event, which took place on the first weekend of March, attendance numbers were a bit lower than in 2018. On the other hand, council members remain bullish on the event.
Council member Jenn Bruno noted Burton’s ability to fill rooms. Nearly 2,000 rooms were booked by Burton for athletes, sponsors and others. Beyond that, nearly 75% of all those to come to Vail — about half of all spectators — stayed in some sort of paid lodging, whether hotel rooms, condos or rent-by-owner lodging.
In all, Burton provided a 10% boost to the town’s lodging occupancy.
Zero waste in 2020?
Part of the overview included a report on the event’s sustainability efforts.
Even with thousands of people in town for the events, Burton representative Marc Murphy said waste diversion — from the landfill to recycling — rose from 58% in 2018 to 80% this year. The goal, Murphy said, is to have a zero-waste event in 2020.
While this year’s U.S. Open was deemed a success, Murphy said there’s still a lot to learn. Some differences in music programming may have affected attendance at the concerts, he said.
Still, the direct economic impact was just less than $3.1 million.
The town also got a lot of exposure on social and traditional media.
Council Member Greg Moffet said “buying that (exposure) would cost us 20 or 30 times,” more than the $490,000 that the town spent to help bring the event to Vail.
And Burton expects to call Vail home for the foreseeable future.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Murphy said.
Murphy noted that the 2022 event will be Burton’s 10th anniversary in Vail. That will also be the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Open. It’s also an Olympic year.
More work to do
While Burton is firmly entrenched in Vail, Spring Back to Vail events are somewhat less certain. This year’s events included two free concerts headlined by Gov’t Mule and Xavier Rudd, along with other events, including the annual pond skimming event.
The Spring Back events were produced by Highline Sports and Entertainment. Highline Director of Operations Peggy Wolfe told council members that this year’s Spring Back was a change from those the past few years — primarily because of the level of entertainment.
While there were a lot of people in town between April 11-14, Wolfe acknowledged that “we expected more people given the level of talent.”
Still, nearly 40% of those who attended the events came from outside the valley and booked lodging. Given the time of the season, Wolfe said most lodges already had spring discounts in place. Those lodges were asked for help with promoting the events.
Given the results from the first year’s events, Wolfe said there’s still work to do to create a more successful Spring Back.
Part of the answer is to work earlier on booking talent, Wolfe said.
But, Moffet said, the town needs to start asking itself “hard questions about what does and doesn’t work.” Moffet noted that town leaders after several years decided that a $75,000 contribution wasn’t going to boost Memorial Day business.
“We ought to be asking ourselves how many years we give ourselves to get 3,500 people to show up (late in the ski season),” he said.
Mayor Dave Chapin said better, earlier planning is a key to holding successful Spring Back to Vail events.
Chapin said the town in the past has been “chasing” results in the spring. Success will require more planning and less chasing, he said.