Opening day: Vail skiers hope snow, economy will improve |

Opening day: Vail skiers hope snow, economy will improve

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyVail Resorts employees Sarah Langston, left, and Kim Hood, right, try to entice passing skiers and snowboarders to try their free hot chocolate Friday on Vail's opening day. Vail Resorts employees and volunteers handed out free hot chocolate and donut balls at the base of Chair 8 and the Gondola for early skiers and snowboarders.

VAIL, Colorado ” With a national economy in the dumps, Vail skiers and riders are looking for big Colorado snow dumps to be the saving grace for Vail’s economy this season.

But tons of snow might not be enough, as signs of the economic slump are already here ” well before people necessarily expect big snowstorms to help guide their ski vacation decisions.

Skiers and riders on Vail Mountain yesterday had mixed feelings about whether Vail would feel the economy’s sting, many tending to lean toward the notion that it would.

For Houston second-home owners Jay and Susan McMillan, who came up for a weekend getaway without their children, they’re feeling the economic pinch first-hand.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that good of a season,” Jay McMillan says. “We can tell by our bookings.”

The couple rents their place out short-term every season. Around this time last year they had it booked for about 75 percent of the season. As of yesterday, they only had three bookings total.

“I definitely think there will be people that will not be skiing because of the economy,” Susan McMillan said.

If the McMillans are right, there will be at least a handful of locals who welcome that news. It means less people crowding up the mountain, says Ryan Cole, who moved to Vail two seasons ago. But he thinks the economy isn’t as bad as it seems, and he thinks Vail won’t really feel it anyway.

“A lot of the people who are coming here are so incredibly wealthy that they’re not worried about the money that the middle class people are losing,” he says.

One thing everyone always depends on, though, is snow. If Vail gets a lot of snow, it will no doubt be better for the local economy. Last season saw record snowfall, and if a dryer early season like last year is any indication of what’s to come, the lack of snow lately might be good news.

“People are definitely praying for snow,” says Mandy Lowran, who lived in Vail last year and now lives in Denver.

Lots of powder might make skiers and riders happier, but for those who love to ski and ride so much already, Lowran thinks the economy won’t deter them.

“With all the stress and anxiety people have been having over the economy, skiing is going to be the one thing that will keep us in a good mood,” she says. “It’s so nice out here; so relaxing.”

That may be true for those who can get here without spending too much, but some die-hards might have to cut back. Brian Mehaffey, a Boulder man who came up for opening day, says about half of his friends back in Boulder didn’t buy passes this year. He said they’re going to ride Eldora Mountain ” cheaper and closer to home.

News like that combined with unseasonably warm temperatures has people getting a little antsy, says Tony Eckel, of Vail.

The sunshine, as nice as it is, needs to go away and the clouds need to come in, Cole says. Once that happens, people’s fears should calm down, he says.

For Stafford Turner, an Eagle-Vail snowboarder who was hitting jumps and showing off some tricks at Vail yesterday, he’s not worried about any of it.

“The snow will come,” he says.

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