Christmas-season reservations pacing ahead of last season | VailDaily.com

Christmas-season reservations pacing ahead of last season

Overflowing luggage carts dominate the lobby of the Vail Marriott hotel last ski season. The week before and after Christmas are historically the busiest weeks of the ski season. This season seems to have recovered from last season's dip.

VAIL — Most of the world knows two certainties: death and taxes. Locally, another certainty is that the Vail Valley fills up for the Christmas holidays. Except that didn't happen last year.

Whatever the factors, the fact is that the valley's lodges posted occupancy numbers in the low 90 percent range. This year, the valley is back to reserved occupancy levels in the high 90-percent range.

"Occupancy is pacing well ahead of last year," Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said. "That suggests we're back to historic expectations of, essentially, no room at the inn."

Part of the reason the valley wasn't quite as busy last year could be the day of the week on which the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays fell — on consecutive Fridays.

“Occupancy is pacing well ahead of last year. That suggests we’re back to historic expectations of, essentially, no room at the inn.”Chris RomerCEO, Vail Valley Partnership

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Date-specific holidays can have an impact on travel patterns, Romer said.

"The Sunday Christmas seems to be working to our advantage," he added.

Early start?

The traditional Christmas holiday bustle usually starts in earnest Dec. 26 and winds down Jan. 4 or so. The week before Christmas is busy, but the day after starts one of the extra-busy periods.

This year, the weeks before and after Christmas are seeing growth, although the period between Wednesday and Dec. 25 is up only slightly.

Ralf Garrison is the principal of Destimetrics, a Denver-based lodging market research firm. Garrison said the holidays last year and this provide an example of how holidays falling on different days of the week can affect travel.

"The impact is dramatic (this year), both due to Christmas bracketing the weekends and the way school breaks have ensued," Garrison wrote in an email. Where the holidays fall this year has moved vacation patterns. Many guests have waited to travel until the weekends or the days immediately after the holidays.

At the Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Vail, director of sales and marketing Scott Gubrud said that hotel's bookings are up this season over last.

"We're in a better place than last year," Gubrud said, adding that this year's bookings are moving a bit more into the first few days in January.

After a slow start to the ski season, Gubrud said bookings at the Four Seasons are strong heading into the remainder of the ski season. Reservations are pacing ahead of last season from January through March. Even February — which can be a bit fallow until Presidents Day weekend — is trending ahead of last season's pace, Gubrud said. April's bookings are running well ahead of last season's pace.

Next up, Easter

April is when the next date-specific, not weekday-specific holiday — Easter — comes.

Easter, the date of which falls on the first full moon on or after March 21, fell on March 27 this year, but doesn't fall until April 16, 2017.

Ski season in Vail falls off dramatically after Easter. But, in the case of this season, it can sometimes be hard to keep the mountain open through the holiday if warm weather comes early.

For now, though, steady snowfall has eased early-season worries. It's also driven reservations.

After a weak November, Romer said booking patterns have recovered well, Romer said, adding that Vail Resorts has "managed its snow message" effectively.

"What we need to be open on the mountains is open," Romer said. "If you didn't know where we started and you look at occupancy and snowfall, we're in the right place."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

On the calendar:

Sunday: The day on which both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall.

Friday: The days on which those holidays fell last year.

March 27: The date of Easter, 2016.

April 16: The date of Easter, 2017.