Group of 150 Australians visits the valley |

Group of 150 Australians visits the valley

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyThirty-seven families, all from Melbourne, Australia, came to Beaver Creek to celebrate the 50th birthday of Simon Williams. They rented out the Mirabelle one night and the Blue Moose another night.

VAIL, Colorado – There’s an Australian invasion in Vail and Beaver Creek this month, and Vail Resorts couldn’t be happier about the influx of guests from Down Under.

The month of January is the summer holiday for Australians, as kids get out of school in mid-December and don’t have to be back until early February. And being that Australians generally love to travel, a trip overseas is often in order for many families.

Turns out trips overseas in January often bring Australians to Vail and Beaver Creek, and it’s no accident that they’ve discovered our local ski resorts. Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner and Vail Resorts International Public Relations Manager May Lilley, who happens to be Australian, are two of the faces behind the success of bringing in Australian visitors. Sutner has also lived in Australia, so the two know the market well.

Vail Resorts works with tour operators in Australia, and the ski company’s sales teams “spend a significant amount of time in the market,” Sutner said.

The marketing and sales strategies work but so does good old fashioned word of mouth. That’s how nearly 150 Australians ended up in Beaver Creek this month, all on holiday together.

The families – 37 families to be exact, all from Melbourne – came to Beaver Creek to celebrate the 50th birthday of Simon Williams. Simon’s wife, Mindy, started planning the trip more than a year ago when she and her husband knew they wanted to travel back to Beaver Creek, a ski resort they had visited before.

Mindy said she sent out some invites to see who might want to join them, thinking about six or seven families might end up coming.

“But when 36 or 37 families came, we just couldn’t believe it,” Mindy said.

The ease of booking the vacation combined with the ease of being on vacation in Beaver Creek was the icing on the cake for the Williamses and so many of their friends. They worked with East West Partners on booking condominiums, and Vail Resorts helped them with group pricing.

And with 37 families renting out condominiums for an average of 10 days, combined with all of the ski passes and dining out – they rented out the Mirabelle one night and the Blue Moose another night, for example – that’s a serious boost to the local economy.

It’s part of the reason Vail Resorts values the Australian guest so much – they have to travel so far, so they’re more likely to stay longer and spend more money while they’re here.

“Aussies stay, on average, 14 nights – probably the longest of any of our entire clientele,” Sutner said. “The average international guest stays seven to nine nights.”

Lilley said Vail Resorts has started tailoring deals and offering more events for Australians based on what the company has learned about their travel patterns. Events in January at Vail Mountain include special welcome parties featuring Australian food and beer, as well as a Vail Mountain Australia Day celebration at Two Elk, which the resort unveiled last season for the first time.

The welcome gestures are all part of the service that Australians such as the Williamses love about Vail and Beaver Creek. Mindy said the customer service is just “superb.”

“Everything’s so easy here. The service is so great, the snow is so good – I know you guys have been complaining about the conditions, but for us, it’s so much better than what we get at home,” Mindy said.

And Mindy said the flight is easy. The Williamses flew direct from Melbourne to Los Angeles, and then direct into Eagle. The flying time was about 15 hours, which she said is no big deal for Australians.

Simon said the value of the Australian dollar has made trips to the United States much less expensive, too. The last time his family was in Beaver Creek, they were getting about 70 cents for an Australian dollar, but now it’s a parity. The value means many families will stay for longer periods of time.

The 37 families in Beaver Creek last week had all traveled in the United States and Mexico before they arrived for the ski holiday, too, and some are continuing their travels after they leave. The Williamses are on their way to Las Vegas – they have tickets for Celine Dion at Caesar’s Palace.

Sutner said it’s crucial to show appreciation for visitors who travel as long as 20 hours or more to get here.

“We better work on acknowledging them as a segment and a population,” Sutner said.

He said there will be a promotion coming up “in the near future” that offers Australians who book two weeks total at its Colorado resorts free transportation connecting them to the resorts.

Sutner said that while the Australian business has grown in the past two or three years, he sees the relationship between Australians and Vail Mountain as a long-term one.

“It’s our job and our goal to help it become long-term,” Sutner said. “To make their experience unbelievably good.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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