Early Vail Mountain closing worries businesses
Out with a bang?
The final weekend of this ski season at Vail will feature a beefed-up calendar of Spring Back to Vail events, including:
• April 8: Concert, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Solaris Plaza, 5:30 p.m.
• April 8: Vail Film Festival virtual reality tent, Slifer Square, Vail Village, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
• April 8-10: Deals at businesses for “Restaurant, Retail and Relaxation.
• April 9: Tikis and Tunes Luau, a pig roast, live music, games and more at Sarge’s at Mid-Vail. 12 p.m.-3 p.m.
• World Pond Skimming Championships, Golden Peak. Events include an expo village, barbecue, pond skimming and a DJ. 1 p.m.-6 p.m.
EAGLE COUNTY — Easter is one of the few holidays that wanders around the calendar. That Christian holiday is early this year — March 27 — which means Vail and Beaver Creek mountains will close early, too, on April 10.
That closing date is a bit early for Beaver Creek, and quite early for Vail, which closed on April 19 in 2015. The April 10 closing concerns some business owners in the valley.
Rayla Kundolf owns Masters Gallery in Vail Village. She said many of her neighbors are talking about the early closing date.
“They’re losing 10 days of business (compared to last year),” Kundolf said. “That can be very lucrative.”
The problem is Easter, which, since roughly 325 A.D., has been celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21. The holiday can be celebrated between March 22 and April 25.
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Traditionally, skier traffic drops off significantly after Easter Sunday, which is generally viewed as the start of the spring season, and time to hang up the skis and snowboards in favor of bicycles, golf clubs and other warm-weather gear.
A statement from Vail Resorts confirms that view, stating that the company has “seen visitation patterns decline significantly past the Easter holiday.”
Still, one Vail restaurateur said if the lifts are running, people are skiing.
Stephen Virion, owner of La Bottega in Vail Village, said that even a steep drop in business after Easter is enough to keep the doors open. This year La Bottega will close April 13 — although the business usually closes in the spring and fall.
“The mountain drives our business decisions,” Virion said. “(Vail Resorts doesn’t) want to keep the mountain open.” That decision, Virion said, shows a lack of respect for the town, its people and its businesses.
With the early closing, valley lodging businesses are expecting a steep decline in April business.
Dale Bugby, owner of Vail Resort Rentals, said he expects as much as a 30 percent decline in his company’s business in April.
While Bugby said his company has had a good winter so far, he said he believes that Vail’s lodging and sales tax numbers will probably be flat, or even slightly down, from the 2014-2015 ski season. That would end a run of several years of record sales tax collections.
‘Nice to have the break’
Despite the concerns, other businesses report a good winter so far.
At The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, general manager Kristen Pryor said the hotel usually prepares for a drop in April business, since the gondola running up to Beaver Creek always closes the first week of that month. And, while Pryor said the April 10 closing “feels a little early,” Vail Resorts reports that Beaver Creek usually closes the second Sunday in April.
Still, Pryor said, “April’s a time to polish up the building and get it back in shape for the summer,” Pryor said. “It’s kind of nice to have the break.”
Ski Butlers is a ski-equipment rental service with its Vail Valley base in Eagle-Vail. Chris LaBoef, manager of the Eagle-Vail shop, said the company has had a good winter. In an email, LaBoef wrote that “the majority of our traditional April renters shifted into the last weekend of March. As a result, we’re not seeing a net negative effect of the earlier closure.”
Then there are businesses that don’t depend as much on running ski lifts and gondolas.
Kundolf said while she understands the concerns of her neighbors in the retail and restaurant businesses, her own business doesn’t depend as much on people being in town in the spring, since many customers ponder their purchases, or need to measure their homes for a particular piece.
Craig Denton, a Vail-based real estate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, said his business also isn’t strictly dependent on people being in town during the last weeks of the season.
“We’re a year ’round business,” Denton said. “The real buyers will come out.”
While Denton also feels for those in other businesses, he said people in the construction business may benefit from the early closing date.
“Guys in the construction business may start a little sooner than usual,” Denton said. “It may be good for them.”