Vail concerts part of ‘calendar management’
VAIL, Colorado – Ski resorts depend on snow, of course, but resorts also have quirks of the calendar to consider.When Vail Resorts’ marketing people sat down last summer to look at the coming ski season, they saw a few quirks. That’s led to some new strategies to keep people coming to the mountain. And this spring, music fans reap the benefits.The first quirk hit in December, when Christmas fell on a Saturday. That’s going to happen once in most decades, but this year, mountain marketers worried that it could affect holiday travel. Vail “Holidaze” was the response, a flurry of free, family-oriented events set for the week before Christmas. The events helped fuel a record-breaking December.The next quirk was a big one: Easter hasn’t fallen on April 24 since 1859. The last time it fell on April 25 – the latest date possible – was 1948. That left a several-week stretch between the March spring break crowds and the traditional Easter visitors.That calendar quirk was actually a double-headed challenge for marketers: How to keep crowds coming in the weeks until Vail Mountain closed Easter Day, and how to attract travelers from Mexico and South America, who traditionally take ski vacations the week before and after Easter. Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner said the answer for Spanish-speakers came in the form of programs aimed straight at them, including on-mountain programs for kids and a Spanish-language website for their parents.But then there were the weeks before Easter. To help keep the crowds coming, Sutner and his team decided to make some changes to Spring Back to Vail, a concert series that has drawn both Front Range and destination visitors over the last several years.This year, Spring Back spreads across two weekends and includes the season’s last Thursday-night Street Beat concerts in Vail Village. The result is “10 concerts in 10 days.” Instead of one weekend with a well-known headliner – previous performers have included Snoop Dogg and Wyclef Jean – this year’s shows feature some up-and-coming acts – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – as well as Train, a band that had hits in the 1990s, and won a Grammy award for the 2010 single “Hey Soul Sister.” Also in the lineup are local favorites including the Greyboy All Stars.Besides the bands, the resort rolled out lodging packages as yet another draw.While Holidaze worked like a charm, it’s anybody’s guess whether the two-weekend Spring Back will have a similar effect.”I guess we’re about to find out how it works,” Sweet Basil co-owner Matt Morgan said. After a busy March and a good response to last weekend’s Taste of Vail, Morgan said he’s eager to see what these concerts bring to Vail Village.Morgan said concerts traditionally “create some energy” in the village, but that doesn’t always translate to filled tables at his place. At the Vail Mountain Lodge and Spa, general manager Frank Johnson agreed that events bring a spark to the village, but don’t always translate directly into business.”It’s a good thing from a retail, spa and restaurant perspective to have skiing until (April) 24,” Johnson said. But, he added, people coming to concerts aren’t a traditional customer base for the lodge he runs.At the Bag & Pack Shop in Vail Village, employee Michael Hand said he’s happy to see the concert crowds.”It’s a unique time of year. It’s getting warmer, so we’ll put sale items outside and that can bring people in,” Hand said.”We’re watching,” Morgan said. “Maybe it’ll be great, but today (Monday) is as quiet as it’s been here for many months.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.