Hectic holidays mean money for Moab
While a boon for local business, the flood of visitors thronging the slopes, restaurants and supermarkets – said a Vail woman, on condition of anonymity – has apparently plunged Vail into the wicked throes of a spice shortage – only one spice though.
“We went to get basil, but the supermarket didn’t have basil!” she said Saturday as she grabbed her skis and hustled toward the Vista Bahn, rather than provide her name to this reporter.
As reported in the Vail Daily Saturday, the winter of 1899’s 50 straight days of snow were so brutal that Red Cliff and surrounding mining camps were in danger of running out of meat. But relatively speaking, don’t you think it’s tad more severe when one can’t whip up a batch of homemade pesto in one of the world’s swankiest ski towns – in this day and age, when you can use a cell-phone to instantaneously send a photograph of some snowboarders from the top of Beaver Creek Mountain to tiny Kiribati island in the South Pacific?
Do people on the tiny island of Kiribati want pictures of snowboarders?
Perhaps those conundrums are best settled on the letters to the editor page – all we’ll add is that Kiribati, according to a CIA Web site, is pronounced “Kiri-bahss.” What we’re really talking about here is how many people have been in town over Christmas and New Year’s.
And while we herein offer no officially-certified statistics, no sales tax totals, no carefully scrutinized scientific polling – while a recent trip to the supermarket revealed plenty of tarragon, Jamaican jerk seasoning and celery salt – we will say what everyone else has been saying: it’s been real busy.
“It’s been extremely busy,” says Bonnie McDonald, who owns the Covered Bridge Coffee shop with her husband. “I think it’s crazier than last year. We’ve been having fun skiing and we’re busy at work – it’s all-around goodness.”
Signs of a slumping economy are hard to spot in at least two big tourist towns this winter, says Erin Fernandez, who also works at Covered Bridge Coffee.
“I was on the East Coast for the holidays and New York City was the craziest I’ve ever seen it,” says Fernandez, who’s recently married and is using her married name for the first time in print. “The whole thing with the economy being down – I haven’t seen a lick of it.”
Vail Resorts does not release the total numbers of skiers on the mountain for specific days, and the company will not comment on its holiday business. But it’s widely believed in the valley that Vail Mountain came close to breaking a record for skiers and snowboarders on the slopes Thursday.
But those very skiers and snowboarders say there’s still some open space, on the right slopes.
“As long as you ski with someone who knows the mountain and knows how to get around, the mountain’s big enough,” says Brian Travis, a skier from Boulder. “Stay off the beaten path.”
Travis suggests the notoriously long Chair 10 – a.k.a the High Line lift – which leads to a batch of long double-diamond runs so far out on the eastern outskirts of Vail Mountain they’re almost on the Front Range. Travis says the ponderous, soporific, 10-minute-plus ride up Chair 10 is worth the solitude.
“I always need a rest anyway,” he says.
Edwards snowboarder Billy Doran agrees with Travis, but says he’s not telling where his secret stashes are.
“It seems like there’s plenty of elbow room,” Doran says. “If you know the right spot, you can still get a run to yourself.”
But it’s hard to have a bar and grill to yourself these days, says Doran, who tends bar at the Gashouse in Edwards.
“It’s been jammed,” Doran says. “It’s been stressful, but it’s very lucrative.
It’s that turn-and-burn part of the holiday when you just try to make as much money as you can.”
Marisa Ventrice, who works at the Grind on Bridge Street, says coffee cop and restaurant – a popular stop for skiers who need a snack-fuel on their way to the Vista Bahn – has been “slammed” the past two weeks.
“Everything’s pretty much slammed – the streets, traffic,” she says.
But this is when locals make – and save – money for their adventures the rest of year, such as mountain bike trips to Moab.
“This is how you make money, so you can spend when you’re broke in the summer,” she says.
Sellers of goods priced a little higher than cappuccinos and bagels – like Bobby Koller – however, say business this holiday season has been steady, but not exceptional.
“It’s busy people-wise, but business-wise it’s been the same as the past few years – normal, average,” says Koller, who’s been skiing during the holiday, though he usually waits until spring.
But does that make him a true local, a skier who only heads to the slopes on the most ideal sunny-sky, soft-snow afternoons?
“Either that, or I’m a wimp because I only ski when it’s warm,” Koller says. “I like spring skiing because the weather’s prefect and the snow is great.”
While it’s as we said – that this article is not a scientifically-based assessment of the economic, social, educational, geo-political, environmental or astrological impact the large holiday crowds have had in the valley – we will venture to guess one of the reasons they’re arriving in droves.
Actually, we won’t guess – we’ll let a real person do it. Here’s Brian Travis, again, the skier from Boulder.
“I purposely drove the extra way to get to Vail,” he says, “because the snow is better.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at