Vail attracts new, return guests |

Vail attracts new, return guests

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Tourists 1 DT 11-28-09

If Vail’s economic future is based on Thanksgiving week indicators, things could be good this season.

Out-of-towners swarmed the mountain this week, and from Epic Pass holders to first-timers, people were happy to be here.

Earl and Maureen Gates brought their children to Vail from St. Louis, Mo., because they wanted some variety, Earl Gates said. They were in Aspen last year and decided to come to Vail to put their children, Gracie, 9, and Joey, 12, in ski school. The family hasn’t yet decided if they’ll be making another ski trip this winter, but if they do, they’re coming back to Vail.

“We’re staying at the Arrabelle, and it’s very nice, very convenient,” Earl Gates said.

Keith Rubenstein, from Houston, brought his two sons, Cameron, 13, and Andrew, 16, to Vail for the holiday week. He’s been coming to Vail his entire life, he said, and typically rents a condominium when he visits. He’s planning on coming back sometime in March.

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“We usually come a couple of times a season,” Keith Rubenstein said.

Vail reservations are up over last year in November, December and January, according to a survey of 18 Vail hotels and lodges. What’s changed is that people are looking for value now more than ever.

Take Ray Stinnett and his family, in town this week from Arkansas. They may have bought 4- and 5-day lift ticket passes, but they ate lunch together on a bench in Lionshead Saturday because it was an inexpensive option. The family spent more than $80 the night before on dinner in Vail – Ray Stinnett didn’t think he got his money’s worth, so they were more cost-conscious for lunch Saturday.

Many are finding value in their Epic Passes – passes that give guests unlimited days on the mountain, with no restriction or blackout dates, for $599. It’s the way to go for anyone who plans on coming to Vail more than once in a season.

Denis Wood, from Houston, just bought the Epic Pass and said it’s going to force him to get at least six days at Vail this season. His grandfather came to Vail every year for about 30 years, and he’s been coming with his family for a week or so around January just about every year since 1984, said his wife, Nettie Wood.

This year, they’re planning trips to both Hawaii and Disneyland, so they’re not sure they’ll make it back to Vail.

Heidi Hansel, 9, was with her family from Texas – all of whom bought Epic Passes this year. Heidi said the family will probably come back to Vail three or four times this season.

First-timers in Vail such as Pontus Widegren, a 19-year-old student at UCLA, is sold on Vail. He got here Wednesday night with a friend who has a condominium in town, and said he hopes to come back as often as possible this season.

“It’s really, really amazing,” Widegren said.

Glenn Kuswa and his wife, Chris Harmon, came to Vail from Albuquerque, N.M. They usually go to Telluride, but wanted to check out Vail for its reputation as one of the fancier ski resorts in the country, Kuswa said. While they were enjoying their trip, they weren’t as crazy about Vail’s lack of a small-town feel, Kuswa said. They’re heading to Telluride in January for their next ski trip.

“This doesn’t have the flavor of a town – there’s condos with groups of stores at the bottom just repeated over (throughout town),” Kuswa said.

Not every visitor wants to come back, but with more and more hotels offering deals and programs such as the Epic Pass and the ski free program for those who fly into the Eagle Regional County Airport, guests around town during Thanksgiving week seemed to be intrigued and happy enough to come back for more.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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