September events prolong summer season
EAGLE COUNTY – According to the unofficial, but widely acknowledged calendar of tourism, Labor Day is the end of the summer season. But Vail Valley schedule-makers are determined to stretch summer into the fall.Looking at the events calendar on http://www.vail.net, there’s still a lot going on in September. Those events span the length of the valley, from the annual Wheels and Wings auto and aircraft show at the Eagle County Regional Airport to the Beaver Creek Luxury Lifestyle Festival to Vail Restaurant Month events.The idea, of course, is to bring people to the valley to stay and play during late-summer and early fall. But filling the September calendar has taken time and effort. Beaver Creek Resort Company General Manager Tim Baker said it’s taken a few years for the September calendar to be as full as it is.”Two or three years ago, Labor Day was the end here,” Baker said.The secret, if there is one, is that the weather between now and roughly mid-October is usually glorious, with warm days, cool nights and only a slight chance of early-season snow.People who live in Colorado know this, and, while travel is far more likely to be weekend trips, September still draws plenty of visitors.Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa General Manager Frank Johnson said between groups, weddings and other business, that property is nearly as busy as it is in August. The weather gets much more unpredictable deeper into the fall, though. That’s why this year’s October event calendar, at least for the upper valley, is mostly limited to Vail Restaurant Month events, and those end Oct. 14. That’s right about when an early-season storm could really take the shine off an outdoor event.Still, Baker said, October is a solid month for hotel reservations at Beaver Creek, thanks to group business that takes advantage of lower hotel rates to book blocks of rooms in resort areas. Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa General Manager Frank Johnson said groups are a significant part of the October picture there, too.October is generally seen as “value time” in this and other resort areas. Baker said he and his family eat out more often in October because of the number of deals at restaurants. “Folks that come up who are on a budget can really experience what resort communities have to offer without spending a lot,” Baker said.While October weather can range from delightful to dreary, people in the tourism business say the valley needs to keep trying.Lourdes Ferzacca, co-owner of La Tour restaurant and a member of the Vail Chamber & Business Association board of directors, said the town might want to try to revive some of the “ambient events” of past years. Those included chili cookoffs and sweet-treat festivals. That sort of event might not draw destination visitors, she said, but will encourage people already here to think about spending another night in the valley.Chamber director Rich tenBraak also believes those smaller-scale events might help spark some additional room nights and restaurant visits in October. But, he added, perhaps event planners can think of other events that might draw “destination guests,” such as film festivals or indoor concerts that wouldn’t be at the whim of the weather.”We’re always pushing for more (events),” Baker said. “We’re always looking for new, creative ideas.”In the meantime, though, Vail, Beaver Creek and the rest of the valley are still open for business, even if they aren’t filled with visitors.”The resort’s always open,” Baker said. “Who’s open and when can vary, but we’re always open.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.