Crucial six weeks ahead for local businesses |

Crucial six weeks ahead for local businesses

Cliff Thompson
NWS Busy Vail2 BH 2-18 Bret Hartman/ Skiers and shopers fill the streets of Vail Village Friday. The next six weeks will be the busiest time for the slopes and stores in the Vail Valley.

VAIL – While many people enjoy the President’s Day holiday, local business people will barely have the time to look up.This weekend is the kickoff of the busiest six weeks of the ski season – six weeks that can make or break a ski town business.”It’s kind of like a bullfight,” said hotelier Rob LeVine of Antlers at Vail, who has been in the Vail area since 1978. “If you don’t make it, you’re gored.” LeVine said he typically sees nearly a third of his annual business at his lodge during the six weeks that start Saturday. But it means more than just keeping the lights on.

“It’s not gravy,” he said. “It’s expected that you will hit a home run. If you hit anything short of a home run, it can be a disaster. You work real hard all year to set yourself up.”That sentiment was shared by Don Bird at Beaver Creek’s Golden Eagle restaurant.”The next six weeks are huge,” he said. “You do the biggest volume of the year. It’s hard to increase your numbers year over year because you were full last year, too. “Other than the two weeks of Christmas,” he added, “this is the busiest time of the year.”

Businesses like Raymond Bleesz’s Brush Creek Dry Goods in Edwards beef up staffing to handle the increased customer load.”Our numbers in February and March are significantly higher,” he said, adding that he’s added two salespeople for the next six weeks. Bleesz drove straight back from a buying trip in Las Vegas rather than spending an extra day, he said because of the busy holiday weekend.With hotels and rental properties solidly booked over the next six weeks, fresh snow and more forecast during the weekend, the season appears set, said Frank Johnson of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, but there’s no guarantees.”We’ve got good snow and good advance bookings. Every day counts. ” he said. “Any number of things can go wrong. If the buzz out there in the skiing world is that Vail has crummy snow, things can turn around very quickly.”

When combined with the Christmas holiday, the next six weeks can be responsible for up to 70 percent or more of the money a business can generate in a year, Johnson said. Johnson said he is hoping the volume of skiers and visitors will extend into April when two-week-long Spring Back to Vail Festival will be held, slopeside. This year the headliner will be singer and actor Snoop Dogg.”That gives us an April event of pretty significant stature,” Johnson said. “It might extend the season.”But the end of the ski season for some businesses means the beginning of a new season for others. In Edwards, Bleesz said the exodus at the end of the ski season means an influx of locals getting ready to purchase beachwear for their vacation trips to warmer climes.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or, Colorado

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