Vail area businesses report holiday crowds are good, if not great
Crowds have been brisk, and are getting outdoors
The Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks are always among the busiest on the resort calendar. That’s still true, but probably not to extent of years past.
Local businesses are reporting business activity between “very good” and “just OK.”
At the Sitzmark Lodge in Vail Village, owner Jeanne Fritch said that hotel is “fairly busy” over the holiday. Fritch said the hotel is between 80% and 85% full for the holiday weeks. The hotel was more busy just last year.
In addition to shorter lead times between booking and travel, Fritch said the holiday business model has been shifting over the past several years.
“We used to get (people booked) for the full two weeks,” Fritch said, adding the the hotel — like others — is seeing far more last-minute bookings than in past years.
The rapid changes brought by the COVID-19 virus mean people’s plans can change rapidly, Fritch said. The answer is being as flexible as possible with guests, she added.
At Karats, a longtime fixture in Vail Village, owner Dan Telleen said the business right now is “treading water.”
“We’re happy for every bit of business we get,” Telleen said. On the plus side, Telleen said the business has gotten some projects done this year, including building up the website, which allows customers to shop remotely.
Telleen, who sold his first piece of jewelry in Vail in 1970, said this holiday season’s “rhythm is the same, but the volume is lower.”
The holiday rhythm is a little different at the Vail Nordic Center. There, center director Dan Timm said traffic this season has been “excellent,” and includes Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking.
Timm noted that the volume at the center’s shop may be a little lighter than previous years, but still in a “nice, steady flow.” While traffic in the shop may be a little lighter, Timm added that traffic on the center’s trails has increased over 2019. Timm said that can be explained by the fact a lot of users are season pass holders, and don’t have to come through the shop before heading out.
Business is also brisk at Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village. Owner Buzz Schleper said the store’s rental business is down a bit — although still busy — but that’s been more than made up with retail business.
“We’ve been extremely busy,” Schleper said, adding that a relatively new venture, Buzz’s Backcountry Adventure snowmobile rental, has also been busy.
“It’s anything having to do with the outdoors,” Schleper said.
Larry Leith is happy to have people playing outside. This time of year, a lot of those people will come in looking for a warm-up at Yeti’s Grind coffee shop in Solaris.
Indoor seating is limited at the shop, of course — as it is at virtually every other business — but Leith said winter so far has been a bit like summer in terms of takeout business.
People are still being cautious
At the nearby Claggett Rey Gallery, co-owner Bill Rey said business has been “good, considering the times we’re in.”
In fact, Rey said, he expected much slower business this year. The gallery limits how many people can be inside at a time, although Rey said there are rarely more than one or two parties inside at once, even in non-pandemic years.
Rey said he’s seen a lot of clients, but many others have stayed home for the holidays.
The brisk business this winter is a relief, given no one knew what the world would look like after the local economy came to a virtual standstill in mid-March.
People are still being cautious.
“We’ve gone into the entire ski season with no expectations,” Fritch said.
Rey noted that he and other business owners are casting a cautious eye on the world these days.
“The blessing is we’re so lucky to be here,” Rey said, adding that Eagle County’s response to the pandemic — from both officials and residents — seems more cohesive than other mountain communities.
“We’re lucky to be in such a caring, giving place,” Rey said.
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