East Coast snowstorm fouls travel plans | VailDaily.com
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East Coast snowstorm fouls travel plans

By the numbers

14: States in the Eastern U.S. that reported at least 12 inches of snow from winter storm Jonas.

30.5: Inches of snow reported Jan 23 at New York’s JFK Airport.

7.5: Inches of snow reported in northeastern Georgia.

4,459: Flights canceled Jan. 23, mostly in New York and Washington D.C.

Sources: http://www.weather.com, Associated Press.

EAGLE COUNTY — Ripples were felt in the Vail Valley following a large winter storm that froze large parts of the eastern United States.

The storm, named Jonas by weather-media types, dropped feet of snow from West Virginia to New York. Schools and businesses were closed, travel ranged from tricky to impossible in parts and thousands of flights were canceled.

A number of those flights — particularly from New York, Newark and Atlanta, were set to fly into Eagle County Regional Airport. Eagle County Aviation Director Greg Phillips said while the airport ran mostly normally through the weekend, a number of flights were canceled in the days before the weekend storm.

“When airlines see a big storm coming, they’ll pre-cancel (flights),” Phillips said. “That way people can re-book their flights or stay put where they are, and you don’t end up with people camping at the airport.”

UNCLAIMED ROOMS

Those canceled flights had an impact on the valley’s business.

Robert Purdy, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek general manager, said that hotel was expected to fill over the weekend. The storm caused one travel group to cancel, and several other travelers weren’t able to make the trip either.

“I’d say at least 10 to 15 rooms per night were affected,” Purdy said.

On the other hand, only a handful of people checking out extended their stays to wait out the storm.

When travel is complicated by storms or other events, Purdy said the hope is that the people who can’t come will be offset by people who can’t leave extending their stay another day or two.

That didn’t happen at the Hyatt over the weekend.

The opposite was true at the Four Seasons in Vail. There, Scott Gubrud, sales and marketing director, wrote in an email that the hotel had more people extending than canceling.

In the vacation business, many travelers are asked for deposits before arrival. Purdy said the Hyatt works to ensure that people can book other dates, so the travelers don’t lose their deposits and the hotel doesn’t lose revenue.

The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon saw only “minimal” impact from the storm, according to spokeswoman Julie Dunn.

But, she added in an email, that hotel offers travel insurance through its in-house reservations department. That insurance covers storms and other natural events that prevent people from traveling.

At the Hyatt, Purdy said that hotel’s reservation contracts include “acts of God” such as storms as reasons for cancellation.

“You try to work with people the best you possibly can,” Purdy said.

Ski RENTAL CANCELLATIONS

The storm didn’t affect just lodging, of course. Mike Brumbaugh owns Venture Sports, which has stores in Vail, Avon and Beaver Creek. Brumbaugh said his business saw some cancellations, which started about Jan. 20, when airlines started preemptively canceling flights.

“We told people, ‘No problem. Just let us know,’” Brumbaugh said.

Just based on Venture Sports customers, Brumbaugh said it seemed like more people were able to get to the valley flying through Eagle than Denver. And, he said, nobody asked for another day or two of equipment rental.

While Phillips talked about the advantages of preemptive flight cancellations, Brumbaugh isn’t so sure.

“(The airlines) hear the wind’s going to blow and they cancel,” he said. “Why not wait for the snow? We had people here from Buffalo (New York) who came with no problems, and then Atlanta flights got canceled.”

And, Brumbaugh said, the business lost from those canceled flights is probably lost for the winter.

“Except for second-home owners, a lot of people who plan vacations make plans for that week,” he said. “They’re not just going to re-book.”

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


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