Vail sales tax up double digits |

Vail sales tax up double digits

Cliff Thompson

If you judge Vail’s retail business success by the sales-tax receipts and lift-ticket tax collected this ski season by the town government, things have been very good.

In fact, things might be judged good enough that some could say the long-awaited “Vail Renaissance” may have already started. Adding to the good news was the fact that February also had one more day this leap year, which helped add to the bottom line of most businesses.

Sales-tax collections in February are up 11 percent over last February and follow January’s 10 percent increase. The back-to-back double-digit gains help reverse what has been a decade-long slump in retail activity in the 42 year-old resort town. Last year sales tax collections were down 3.7 percent over the previous year.

For the town, which cut nearly $1 million from its 2004 budget, that translates into $2.34 million in sales tax collections, or $235,000 more than last February. So far the ski season’s collections are up 6.2 percent or $426,664 over last year.

Next year work will begin in earnest on $1 billion in public and private renovation in Vail and Lionshead, a multi-faceted project that’s being dubbed “Vail’s New Dawn.”

But the good fortune did not spread equally across town.

In Lionshead, Rob LeVine at the newly expanded 94-room Antlers Lodge had a good run of business after the $22 million renovation that was completed in early 2003. “We had a huge February,” he said. “We were 20 percent ahead of February last year and 12 percent ahead of budget.”

But Gary Boris at Montauk Restaurant in Lionshead said his numbers were “down a skosh or flat.”

At the General Store in Lionshead and Rucksack on Bridge Street in Vail, Nichole Ewing-Hoffman said February proved a bit of a disappointment at the two stores she manages.

“We were down slightly in February after being up in December and January,” she said.

At Bridge Street’s Laughing Monkey, a women’s boutique, Ghiqui Hoffman reported a good month. “My February was really good,” she said. “It’s been a good season for us, better than the last two years. There are more destination skiers in town and people are staying in the village.”

But she said it’s still not like the old days of Vail when the town was crowded and it was a retailer’s market, she said.

Front Range skiers were not as prevalent as they were last year, according to the generally accepted evidence of their arrival – cars parked on the Frontage Road.

“This year has been down,” said Kevin Berga, parking supervisor for the town of Vail.

But the number of skiers in February was up, as evidenced by the town’s 4 percent lift tax, which registered an 11.3 percent increase over last year. So far the lift tax collected for the 2003-2004 ski season is up 7.8 percent.

But March totals, according to Hoffman-Ewing, may not extend the streak.

“March was down even more (than February),” she said. “We didn’t see the numbers of people and we didn’t see the snow. That could have a lot to do with it.”

Cliff Thompson can be contacted via e-mail at or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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