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Spring Break booming at Colorado resorts

Daniel Boccia
Snowmass Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS, Colorado – “Spring break” usually conjures images of large numbers of scantily clad coeds partying down at overcrowded beaches. But for college-aged skiers and riders, March vacations are a time to get in some days of spring skiing in the mountains before season’s end.

And of course, do some partying.

Ski resorts realize this fact and between independent college kids on spring break and families taking advantage of school holidays, the month of March can account for a significant portion of a season’s revenues.

“Spring traffic – through March and early April, depending on Easter – can be upwards of 25-30 percent (of the entire year’s business),” said Jeff Hanle, director of Public Relations for the Aspen Skiing Co. (Skico).

With that in mind, Skico has expanded its spring events line-up, stretching the “Spring Jam” festival over three weekends this year. Attractions include a variety of concerts, parties and competitions catering to younger, more lively audiences.

“(Spring breakers) are definitely active. We’ve targeted activities to that crowd with three free concerts during Spring Jam. But it’s not like springbreak in Cancun, we also have Lots of families and younger kids,” he added.

One of the most notable new event series is the Thursday Throwdown on Aspen Mountain. On Thursdays, the Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairs will run late and competitions will be held in the new terrain park being built on Little Nell.

“You’ll see a younger crowd in the terrain park on Little Nell, and you’ll have traditional Aspen guys and girls up on Bell Mountain. Then we’ll all come together like one big, happy family in the beer garden,” said Hanle.

Despite the stigma that often accompanies the typical ‘breaker and often scares family-oriented lodges away from targeting the college crowd, the average skier or rider on break is more concerned with making the most of their expensive ski ticket than trashing condos or raising hell around town.

“We’re not going after the massive spring break, MTV, Panama City-party crowd. For lots of skiers and riders, this is what they do in the spring. Snowsports are the focus of our marketing, we don’t want people that are just coming to party,” explained Hanle.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ample opportunities to have a good time. Events like the Bud-Light Hi-Fi concert series featuring the likes of Ky-Mani Marley and De La Soul along with the 9th annual Kick Aspen Big Air and Gretchen Bleiler’s inaugural Snow Angels Invitational half-pipe competition will offer something for everyone.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to prospective student visitors on vacation is lodging. Many hotels and rental properties are wary of renting to potentially rowdy college groups.

“(College groups) can be destructive. With individual condos, you need to be aware of who you’re renting to,” said Mary Harris, General Manager at the Timberline. But Harris explains that the rarity of college groups staying at many local establishments is primarily an economic phenomenon.

“The price of condos and lodging has gone up and for that reason less places are taking them. Not too many places do college groups, because when you can get a much higher rate for a family, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” said Harris.

Joe Gordon, General Manager at the Pokolodi Lodge, echoed Harris’ assessment of the typical March clientele.

“Most of March is adults, spring break traffic makes up only a small part. We tend to do most of our college and high school groups around Christmas breaks,” said Gordon, who was careful to note that “College-age groups are generally well-behaved and well supervised throughout the year.”

Still, there has been a gradual increase in late winter visits by a younger demographic in recent years.

“March is traditionally fairly consistent, but there’s been some growth in the college market, which is a result of marketing and advertising campaigns, with the X Games and other events targeting college demographics,” said Hanle.

And while they don’t fit with every hotel’s business model, Hanle explained that the Spring Break crowd may be gaining some credibility with certain local establishments, saying: “Lodging groups that in the past may have been resistant to college groups have come around and are willing to work with them.”


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