Last-minute business is now the rule in the Vail Valley |

Last-minute business is now the rule in the Vail Valley

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” It used to be easy for Lourdes Ferzacca to plan her weekends ” look at the lodging reservations and staff LaTour restaurant accordingly. It’s tougher this season.

“It’s just impossible to tell what’s going to happen,” Ferzacca said.

So, with paying customers more precious than ever, Ferzacca and her husband, Paul, who own LaTour and ZaccaZa in Avon, get ready for the weekends and do all they can to get people in the doors. For LaTour, that means accepting virtually every reservation possible, even if it comes between 7 and 8 p.m., usually the busiest time for local restaurants on weekends.

The trick is to keep guests feeling as if they haven’t been squeezed in, that their dinner party is the most important of the night, Ferzacca said.

Between accepting as many reservations as possible and promotions to get people in the door ” including an e-mail promotion that gives diners 10 percent off on every visit to either restaurant ” LaTour’s doing OK this winter.

“Last weekend was great, considering,” Ferzacca said.

In Lionshead, Double Diamond Ski Shop manager Matt Carroll said last-minute reservations are the rule, not the exception this season.

“Last year, we’d have people reserving equipment on the Internet one or two months out,” Carroll said. “Now we’re getting reservations two days out. It’s a huge difference.”

Bob Trotter, the general manager at the Westin Riverwalk Resort and Spa in Avon, helped open the place last fall, so all the Westin’s numbers are new. But, Trotter said, the Westin is seeing more last-minute reservations than he’s seen in his time in the hotel business.

Still, the new hotel’s weekend occupancy has been 90 percent or a bit more for much of the season, including last weekend. Weekdays are much slower, Trotter said.

But, he added, the Avondale restaurant has been doing good business, especially at night. Breakfast is another matter, though.

“One thing that’s hurting breakfast is that we’re a condo hotel and there are kitchens in the units,” Trotter said. “People go to City Market to pick up stuff for breakfast in their rooms.”

Spending on breakfast isn’t the only way travelers are cutting back.

Trotter said numbers for Westin’s spa haven’t met expectations. But, he said, spas everywhere are hurting.

“The discretionary spending just isn’t there,” he said. “The trend we’re experiencing is being mirrored across the nation.”

Spending less may even be reflected in Vail’s parking structures. Mike Rose, who manages the structures, said while total traffic was down somewhat from last year ” there were fewer cars parked on the frontage road this year than the same weekend last year ” there were actually more transactions at the Vail Village parking structure than there were this time last year.

“Maybe we’re seeing shorter stays,” Rose said. “We could be seeing people coming later and leaving sooner. Because of the Epic Pass, it’s easy to come up for a couple of hours.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

Parking comparison for last weekend ” Friday through Sunday ” compared with the same weekend in 2008:

2008 2009

Village Parking structure: Full Full

Average time it filled: 9:30 a.m. 10:30 a.m.

Frontage Road parking: 625-plus 129

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