Vail Valley business a mixed bag over holiday weekend
On the calendar
• Feb. 18-20: Presidents’ weekend.
• March: Spring break.
• April 16: Easter Sunday.
• April 23: Closing day on Vail Mountain.
EAGLE COUNTY — The holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday has gradually become a fairly important one on the resort calendar. But how busy the weekend past was depends on who you ask.
For raw numbers in Vail, this year’s three-day weekend wasn’t as busy, at least in terms of parking. Mike Rose, who manages the town of Vail’s bus system and parking structures, said the Vail Village and Lionshead Village parking structures filled two days over the holiday weekend in 2016. On the Monday of the holiday weekend last year, 900 cars were parked on Vail’s frontage roads.
For the 2017 holiday weekend, the parking structures only filled once — on Sunday. That day, 300 cars were parked along the frontage roads.
There was plenty of traffic along Interstate 70, though. In an email, Stacia Sellers, of the Colorado Department of Transportation, wrote that more than 78,000 vehicles went westbound through the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels between Jan. 13 and 16. Eastbound traffic was heaviest Sunday, when delays between Silverthorne and Denver stretched at times to two hours.
Vail’s frontage road parking impressed Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh. During a mid-day trip Sunday between his stores in Vail Village and Cascade Village, Brumbaugh said the frontage road parking was “nuts,” stretching from the Vail Village parking structure nearly to the Vail Resorts shops west of Lionshead Village.
Brumbaugh said the weekend at his Vail Village store was “really busy” on Saturday, with a “surprising” amount of business on Sunday.
At Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail Village, store manager Mike Van Valkenburg said that shop was also busy throughout the weekend, although not as busy as the holiday weekend in 2016.
Gradually getting busier
While those ski shops were busy, a couple of local restaurants were on the “even busier” side of the ledger.
At the base of Beaver Creek, Coyote Cafe general manager Buzz Busby said that restaurant described the holiday weekend as “huge.”
“The weather was nice, and people were on the patio,” Busby said. “There were a lot of people outside.”
Busby, who doesn’t get much time on the hill himself this time of year, guessed that people came to the valley because of the snow.
After a slow start to the season, “maybe people’s confidence in the snow has been restored,” Busby said.
Brumbaugh agreed about the snow.
“Good snow makes us all look smarter,” he said.
On the other hand, there may be too much of a good thing.
Debbie Heim, owner of the Dakota Craftsman jewelry store in Lionshead Village, said she had a relatively quiet weekend. Heim said her sister recently attended a trade show in Utah. There, she said, people were talking about too much snow in the mountains.
On the valley floor in Avon, Northside Coffee & Kitchen owner Jim Pavelich said his place was bustling all weekend, noting that his store sells more eggs, along with more Caymus wine, than any other restaurant on the Western Slope.
Still, he said, this holiday weekend isn’t as busy as his place will be in the weeks to come.
“From now through spring break we’ll get progressively busier,” Pavelich said. “People forget this is just the middle of January.”
That mid-January weekend has traditionally been a tough one in the local tourism industry, with the King holiday becoming progressively busier throughout the years.
“I don’t know what promotes it so well,” Van Valkenburg said. “Maybe it’s another day off from school. … It’s only two weeks past (New Year’s).”
And, while hotels generally get pretty full, this weekend on the calendar still depends on both group business and leisure travelers.
Mark Herron, general manager of the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, said that hotel was full up through the weekend, and still more than 70 percent filled for Monday night.
Scott Gubrud, sales and marketing manager at the Four Seasons Resort Vail, said that hotel was busier this year than in 2016, and was nearly full.
Gubrud agreed that the King holiday is a tough one to fill so soon after the end of the Christmas/New Year’s holidays.
“It will never be 100 percent leisure (business) over this weekend,” Gubrud said. “But most hotels, if they have the right balance of group and leisure, do well.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.