Vail businesses see a boost from Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships |

Vail businesses see a boost from Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships

Chloe Kim wows the crowd with her huge tricks during the Burton U.S Open Snowboarding women's halfpipe finals Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Vail. Kim, at 15 years old, took first place in the competition.
Townsend Bessent | Daily File Photo |

What’s happening?

For a full rundown of events and riders at the 2018 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, go to the Burton website.

VAIL — There used to be some debate over the value to Vail of the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. That debate may largely be over.

When Burton in 2013 moved its annual celebration of the sport to Vail from its original home in Stratton, Vermont, some in Vail wondered if the town really needed the event. Late February and early March were already busy, the argument went. Why should the town commit six-figure financial assistance to it?

This will be the sixth U.S. Open in Vail. As the years have passed, the event has spread from a long weekend to a full week of activity. More concerts have been added, and the roster of top-flight riders has grown, too.

The town’s financial commitment has grown, too, with about $400,000 going into this year’s events.

Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet, long a supporter of the event, said that public money is going to a very good cause.

“We’re moving occupancy when we’re making money at it,” Moffet said. An event held during the busy part of the ski season means people are paying busy-season rates for lodging. And more rooms are being occupied.

A big bump

When Burton first came to town, average occupancy in Vail during that week was around 85 percent. Occupancy has grown to near 95 percent for this year’s championships.

That’s significant. Vail’s total lodging inventory is about 4,000 bedrooms. A 10 percent boost is another 400 rooms. Given that the average daily rate for all rooms in Vail is more than $600, that’s a lot of money for both businesses and the town.

Still, not everyone benefits.

Vail Chamber & Business Association Executive Director Alison Wadey said the additional people in town are good for lodges, restaurants and bars, but it isn’t necessarily a “slam dunk” for some retailers.

Still, Wadey said, that’s why the town hosts a variety of events that includes dance, classical music and jazz.

But, like the GoPro Mountain Games, the week of snowboarding is “very important,” Wadey said. Snowboarding and the Mountain Games tend to attract younger audiences and participants. That’s going to be important for Vail in the future.

Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village, said his business doesn’t see much of an immediate boost from Burton events.

“In the long run, it does,” Schleper said. “It puts Vail on the map as a snowboard (destination).”

Schleper said the event brings in plenty of people — mostly spectators. Those people may not be looking for new gear that week, though. Still, new visitors and younger visitors is an alluring combination.

Building the brand

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Romer said he’s been impressed with the growth of the U.S. Open.

“It was pretty big to begin with, and it’s grown into a very big event,” Romer said.

Boosting occupancy in a busy, but not peak, week is a significant boost for the valley. It’s the reason the Vail Valley Foundation continues to seek out a major event for the third week of August. The valley is busy, but could be more busy in those periods.

“Late February and early March is a perfect time for a signature event,” Romer said.

Beyond the usual goal of “heads in beds,” Romer said events such as the U.S. Open also create brand awareness for a new audience. That, in turn, creates what marketing people call “advocates” for the Vail brand.

“If kids bring parents, they become future customers,” Romer said. “There’s so much competition for loyalty.”

This year could have a particularly big impact on business, Moffet said.

“This is an Olympic year; look at all the riders who were (at the Olympics) who are coming here.”

And, in its sixth year, the U.S. Open “has met or exceeded my expectations,” Moffet added.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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