Vail, Beaver Creek opening more terrain, hoping for full season
Many valley businesses, including Vail Resorts, are taking measures to stay in operation
After last season’s unprecedented shutdown of non-essential commercial operations — including ski areas — many businesses this season, including Vail Resorts, are intent on staying open in 2020-21.
Vail spokesperson John Plack has said on several occasions that the resort’s goal is to stay open “for the entire season.”
Vail’s commitment to safety includes a mandatory mask zone on all chairlifts and in the pedestrian areas of Vail Village, Lionshead, Golden Peak and Cascade Village. In Beaver Creek, masks are required as well in the village and on lifts and pedestrian areas, as well.
But perhaps the biggest change when it comes to safety protocols is Vail Resorts’ new reservations system, which limits the total capacity on chairlifts this season.
While days were quick to fill for early season skiing at Vail and Beaver Creek, reservations are currently open for most of the season.
On Tuesday, Vail Mountain announced that most of the beginner area lifts and moving carpets were now turning for the season, with 12 lifts and carpets total now up and running. Vail’s acreage for the season is 375 acres as of Tuesday.
Beaver Creek remains at 239 acres, with seven total lifts and carpets running.
“Our team is working hard to open up new terrain, and, the good news is – looks like Mother Nature will be helping us out (a little) this week,” said Jessie Vandenhouten, communications manager for Vail and Beaver Creek resorts.
Businesses work to stay open, too
A Nov. 30 letter to Gov. Jared Polis and the Eagle County Commissioners from Beaver Creek Resorts Company — as well as the towns of Vail, Avon, Eagle and Minturn — requests a variance program which would allow businesses to remain open.
The letter can be signed by anyone and requests the state and county government allow Eagle County to operate under similar guidelines as Mesa County in western Colorado, which uses a program called the 5 Star Variance Protection Program.
“The program would add new, more restrictive guidelines and protocols for restaurant and retail establishments to follow, thus creating a safer environment for our residents and visitors,” according to the letter.
Can restaurants avoid the red?
But while those guidelines are more restrictive in some ways, they’re less restrictive in others, namely when it comes to business occupancy limits.
When Mesa County entered the the state’s red category on the COVID-19 dial in November, businesses that had been pre-approved in the voluntary 5-star program were allowed to remain open for in-person services like dining.
“Severe business occupancy limits and closures result in employees spending much more time at home, proliferating the very private gatherings identified by our Public Health Department as the primary source of spread of COVID-19 in our community,” according to the letter from Beaver Creek and the Eagle County towns. “We believe that businesses open at safe levels, employees at work, students in school, and shoppers and diners in full compliance with the public health orders is the safest and best path forward for all.”
The letter said the state’s red category on the COVID-19 dial is highly punitive to restaurants and retail businesses “by restricting in-person dining and shopping, while leaving other sectors virtually untouched.”
Lodging at 100%
The lodging industry, which can continue to operate at 100% capacity, was mentioned as an example of an untouched sector.
“Lodging capacity is unrestricted — visitors are here and more are coming,” the letter reads. “These visitors, the lifeblood of our local economy in good times and bad, simply must be accommodated by restaurants and retail.”
Vail Resorts wraps up its biggest lodging sale of the year on Tuesday, “with the best deals and availability on lodging” according to marketing material.
Pete Reyes, general manager at the Wyndham in Avon, said bookings are strong.
“Starting Thanksgiving, we’re at 100 percent,” Reyes told the Avon Town Council in November.
A representative from lodging site vacasa.com, which operates in vacation markets across the U.S. including Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Steamboat and Vail, told the Vail Daily that views of cabin rentals have doubled compared to the same time last year, and 30.5% of people from a recent survey of more than 1,000 travelers said they were indeed planning to vacation over the holidays, indicating they were looking for “a cozy mountain cabin” for overnight accommodations.
The Vacasa content team classifies “mountain cabins” rental properties that display physical characteristics including wood exterior, interior wood paneling and contain remote, mountain or lakeside locations.
Vail is currently a top nine “best bet” suggestion from Vacasa for the 2020 holiday season for its availability; a company spokesperson said the best bet suggestions avoid highlighting the highest-occupancy destinations where vacation rentals may be hard to come by or states where quarantine protocols are in place.
Marketing efforts underway
Town of Vail marketing efforts are underway to attract people to town, as well.
A Nov. 25 email blast to Vail newsletter subscribers described, in addition to commitments to safety and new protocols, upcoming “moments of surprise and delight” in Vail, including a daily ringing of bells which “herald the beginning of Vail Apres, featuring outdoor live music on select days and signature specials at shops and restaurants.”
A Dec. 11-31 celebration titled “Vail Holidays” will offer “holiday traditions including the Kris Kringle Market, tree lighting ceremony, Holiday Sweater Run, New Years Eve fireworks and more,” according to the Nov. 25 email blast.
A Nov. 27 press release from the town detailed how the tree lighting was to be virtual this year, and encouraged “stay-in family experiences,” but also drew attention to “ambient music pop-ups, ice skating shows, astronomy nights and more as safety circumstances allow.”
Mia Vlaar with the town of Vail said while the town has modified its approach to ensure safety for Revely activities, “we are still committed to celebrating the opening of Vail mountain with opportunities to surprise and delight everyone visiting our villages.”
Revely Vail continues through Dec. 11.
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