Vail businesses looking on the bright side |

Vail businesses looking on the bright side

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

While the world changes, Vail’s Sitzmark Lodge general manager Jeanne Fritch is trying to hang on to an old ski resort tradition.

For years, resort hotels based much of their business model on seven-day bookings. Over the past several years, though, vacations have gotten shorter, and so have hotel bookings.

Then came this season and the national recession that’s put a crimp on cash flows throughout the valley. For reasons as varied as job security and the state of a mutual fund, people are booking rooms closer to their travel dates than ever.

That’s true at the Sitzmark, too. But, Fritch said, the lodge is hanging on to the ideal of the week-long visit, preferably with check-in on one Saturday and check-out the next.

“People are amazed we can still do it,” Fritch said. “But we’re going to do it until we can’t any more.”

But even at the Sitzmark, people are booking closer to their travel dates. Fritch said the hotel has gotten a good bit of business through the Vail On Sale Web site, which advertises lodging deals with no more than three weeks’ advance.

Through both long- and short-term reservations, the Sitzmark was full over the last weekend, and is just about full through Saturday. After that, though, the reservations drop off.

“I’m just glad we’ve had snow,” Fritch said.

The snow, and, of course, the Epic ski pass, has helped ski shops over the season.

Johnny Schleper at Buzz’s Boards in Vail said weekend business was brisk.

“We’re actually not down much from last year,” Schleper said of the family business.

Rick Colomitz, the “Rick” in Rick and Kelly’s American Bistro in Edwards and Kelly Liken’s husband and business partner, said he and Liken are fairly happy with the way business has been going at the couple’s Kelly Liken restaurant in Vail.

“The numbers aren’t as down as we’d feared, or as much as we’re hearing some people are,” Colomitz said. “But people seem to be spending a little less than they used to.”

Reservations are strong, and Colomitz said recent write-ups in Bon Apetit magazine and the New York Times has helped keep the phones ringing for reservations.

The Edwards restaurant is geared more toward locals, and Colomitz said he and Liken are about to launch a new promotion them.

That promotion, a “frequent diner” card, requires people to register by e-mail. In return, though, they receive a card good for 15 percent off their total bill on every visit, even during happy hours. That promotion will include weekly drawings and other perks, too, Colomitz said.

Liken and Colomitz aren’t limiting the specials to the downvalley restaurant, though. They’re also promoting a half-price early-bird special for the seven-course chef’s “tasting” dinner.

“People are pretty excited about that,” he said.

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