Vail Valley is likely to fill over Christmas; December bookings have fallen |

Vail Valley is likely to fill over Christmas; December bookings have fallen

Skiers make their way down Born Free run for Vail’s Opening Day Wednesday, Nov. 22, in Vail. While snowfall has been scarce so far this season, the Vail Valley is expected to fill for the Christmas holidays
Chris Dillmann | |

By the numbers

7.1 percent: Increase in lodging occupancy across the region.

11.4 percent: Increase in aggregate revenue.

15.8 percent: Increase in bookings between Oct. 31 and April 30.

Numbers are for the Western Mountain Resort Region. Source: Inntopia Destimetrics

EAGLE COUNTY — No matter the weather, families come to the Vail Valley to celebrate the Christmas holiday. The surprise, in this currently dry winter, is that seasonal reservations remain solid.

The Vail Valley Partnership is the regional chamber of commerce. It also has a reservations service and monitors data from the valley and the region.

Partnership CEO Chris Romer said that as of Nov. 30, that data shows mid-December bookings are behind the pace set in late 2016. The two weeks of the Christmas/New Year’s holidays are about even with 2016’s pace.

On the other hand, that holiday-season pace has the valley nearly full for much of the period.

Romer said on peak days, occupancy is nearly 100 percent. Some of the slower period percentages are in the 80s, but the two-week average occupancy percentages are in the 90s.

“More than any other time of year, the Christmas crowd is about spending time together with family and getting away from it all,” Romer said. Skiing is important, he added, but family time seems to be the biggest attraction.

At the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, general manager Mark Herron said that hotel’s business is strong heading into the Christmas holidays.

“As of last week, we’re above the pace of (2016) for December,” Herron said.

Starting about Saturday, Dec. 23, the hotel is just about full for the next two weeks, he said.

“Next week is Super Bowl week in the mountains,” Herron said.

Postponing in hope of snow

The story is a little different at the 35-room Sitzmark Lodge in Vail Village.

Sitzmark General Manager Jeanne Fritch said the hotel is “holding on” while waiting for snow. The week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 is busy, Fritch said. At this point, though, the hotel has seen several guests postpone stays into February and March. The belief seems to be that snow will come.

“It hasn’t only been cancellations but rate,” Fritch said, adding that rates have been “slashed” for early-season guests.

Hotels in Vail are generally offering to move reservations instead of providing refunds. Magda King, general manager of The Antlers Lodge in Lionshead, said that’s the policy at that property. And, from calling other lodges, King said she’s hearing the same thing from them.

“The motive is for people to have a good time,” King said, adding that guests can come later, when, presumably, a bit more snow has fallen.

While mountain resorts are focused on skiing, Herron said guests at the Park Hyatt have been taking advantage of that hotel’s amenities. The on-site spa is seeing record reservations, he said, and a recent breakfast service saw more than 200 diners.

A positive outlook

While snowfall is scarce in Colorado and Utah, that doesn’t seem to be impacting long-term reservations.

Tom Foley, of Inntopia Destimetrics, a market research service, said destination guests generally book based on their schedules, while people within driving distance generally book based on snowfall.

Those visits booked months in advance continue to show strength around the mountain resort region in the Western United States. December, though, has presented some challenges to the lodging industry.

The timing of Christmas and New Year’s Day this year — the holidays fall on Mondays — has presented some problems due to the schedule of school breaks, Foley said.

Many schools don’t start their holiday breaks until Friday, Dec. 22. That means families won’t come until the kids are out of school.

On the other hand, kids in many districts won’t go back to school until Monday, Jan. 8. That should help the first week of January, Foley said.

Following that relatively late break, Foley added that the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday falls just a couple of weeks later.

Following that three-day weekend is the Presidents Day holiday, which starts Saturday, Feb. 16.

Add in the fact that Easter in 2018 — Sunday, April 1 — is about two weeks earlier than it was in 2017, and the booking picture is favorable.

Of course, a good bit of snow would help.

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

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