Valley looks for boost from U.S. Open |

Valley looks for boost from U.S. Open

** FILE ** In this March 21, 2008, file photo, Shaun White, center, celebrates his win in the Men's Slope Style competition at the 26th Annual U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, at Stratton Mountain Resort in Stratton, Vt. Olympic champions Shaun White and Kelly Clark will headline the 27th annual U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships this weekend at Stratton Mountain, Vt. The event, considered the granddaddy of snowboarding championships, draws about 40,000 people. (AP Photo/Alden Pellett, File)

VAIL, Colorado – Vail loves it when company comes, like this week’s Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships.

The event will pour an estimated $18 million into local coffers, according to the town of Vail and promoter Highline Sports and Entertainment.

“It was a coup to get them to move here after all that time in Stratton,” said Kelli McDonald, economic development coordinator for the town of Vail.

Then there’s the general wonderfulness of it all.

“Vail is arguably the best brand in mountain resorts. Burton is arguably the best snowboard brand. It’s a marriage made in heaven,” said Chris Romer with the Vail Valley Partnership.

$400K sweetener

When the local Powers That Be started pitching woo to convince the Burton U.S. Snowboarding Championships to move from Stratton, Vt., to Vail, the town kicked in $400,000 to sweeten the pot.

The town expects to earn $815,000, McDonald said.

That two-to-one return on investment is right in line with what Vail expected, McDonald said. The town commissioned an economic impact study for last year’s Vail events. The Boulder firm RRC Associates found that the town gets back $2 for every $1 spent.

The rest of the $18.5 million lands in local cash registers.

Then there’s the fun factor, as slopestyle and halfpipe practice started Monday.

“They look like they’re having a great time,” McDonald said.

Snowboard beats Snowball

Last year, that same weekend saw 12,000 people in town for the Snowball event in Avon. Attendance estimates for the Burton U.S. Open are running at 50,000, promoters said.

Lodging and occupancy for the U.S. Open are pacing the same as last year, but it’s different sorts of heads in those beds, Romer said.

“While the crowd is about the same, it introduces Vail and the brand to a different crowd,” Romer said. “The younger generation tends to lean more toward snowboarding, so having a world-class snowboarding event is a great way to introduce them to the brand.”

The valley’s lodging occupancy was 90 percent last weekend, and will be 90 percent the weekend after the Burton U.S. Open, Romer said.

This weekend during the event it’ll be 100 percent, Romer said.

Increase occupancy by 10 percent, at the winter rate of a couple hundred bucks a night, and it becomes a big number, Romer said.

That doesn’t include people coming to town for the day to watch the event, who also create an economic benefit by disposing of some disposable income.

National research shows that people who attend sporting events tend to spend about $800 per person, in addition to their lodging, Romer said.

“It’s safe to assume that the people who attend the Burton U.S. Open will spend much more than the national average,” Romer said.

Circle of cents

To calculate an event’s total economic impact, most economists multiply the revenue times three. That’s the number of times those dollars will change hands locally before circulating out of the area.

That’s $55.5 million in total economic impact for the Burton U.S. Open.

The multiplier differs, depending on who’s doing the addition, but the basic facts don’t change.

There’s the money people spend when they come to town for an event like this, buying food, lodging, gear, souvenirs and about anything else you can imagine, up to and including each other.

Retailers may have to put an extra human or two to work, to handle the crowds. Those humans might spend some of that extra money next door at a bar or restaurant. The bartender will spend it at the gas station or grocery store.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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