Vail’s tourist types change in late summer
Here’s a look at back-to-class dates for some Colorado school districts:
• Jefferson County: Aug. 17.
• Douglas County: Aug. 10.
• Cherry Creek: Aug. 13.
• Denver Public Schools: Aug. 17.
• Eagle County: Aug. 18 (middle and high schools)
EAGLE COUNTY — Family life revolves around the school calendar. And as family schedules go, so goes the calendar in resort areas.
With the state’s biggest school districts — along with districts in major out-of-state markets in Dallas and Houston — back in school, the Vail Valley sees a change in its visitors and lodging patterns.
Those changes come on the heels of what seems to be a very successful summer so far.
The Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce and tourism promotion organization, has a reservations center and tracks reservations in the valley overall. In an email, Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer wrote that the first half of August saw a “strong increase” in occupancy. That strength turned to inconsistency in the second half of the month, Romer wrote.
Part of that drop is probably due to the USA Pro Challenge cycling event skipping a Vail Valley stop this year. Other inconsistencies are harder to track. But there are some constant patterns.
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Family vacations shrink from multiple days to weekends this time of year. That leaves valley lodges with mid-week holes to fill. Those changes also affect the bottom line for lodges in terms of what they charge for rooms.
Summer lodging in the Vail Valley is always less expensive than during the winter months, but that difference becomes more pronounced as late summer gives way to early fall.
At the Four Seasons Resort in Vail, Scott Gubrud, the sales and marketing director, said the difference in room rates at that property can be $100 per night less during weekdays than on weekends. Those lower rates are intended to draw groups and less-numerous travelers whose lives aren’t synced with school calendars.
While lodges work to fill rooms on weekdays during much, if not most, of the year, the late summer and early autumn weeks are actually prime time for business groups, and the valley’s bigger lodging properties work full-time to attract those business and other groups.
“The groups want to get their meetings done before the holidays,” The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa General Manager Kristen Pryor said. “The kids are in school, and everybody’s available for business travel.”
Pryor said that The Westin’s bookings are solid into October, following what she called a “banner October” in 2014.
In addition to groups, Pryor said her hotel also has a steady, if not large, stream of older couples coming for a week.
“They want to experience fall in the mountains,” Pryor said.
While families have returned to their school-year routines, there are still plenty of events in the valley geared perhaps toward a more adult audience.
Beaver Creek Resort Co. Director Jen Brown wrote in an email that the resort is expecting good September crowds for its Labor Day Oktoberfest weekend, as well as the International Auto Festival and Rendezvous Music Festival. Beaver Creek also participates in the valley’s restaurant week.
The America Cup International Fly Fishing Tournament fills up the Evergreen lodge Sept. 9-14, and Vail is also hosting a new mountain biking event at the end of the month, the Vail Outlier Off-Road Festival, Sept. 25-27.
Brown wrote that many of the fall events draw more adults, but she added that there are still plenty of family activities on the weekends.
In Vail, the Sunday markets on Meadow Drive stretch into October, along with the traditional pair of Oktoberfest weekends in Vail Village and Lionshead. The annual Vail Jazz Festival is also a September staple, as are the valley’s restaurant week, a long-running youth soccer tournament and the Vail Automotive Classic.
The increase in September events has paid dividends, Romer wrote.
“We’ve done a great job as a community with filling in the calendar,” he wrote.
That increase keeps weekends bustling into October and the more-dreary weeks leading into ski season.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.