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Warmth means slow business for Vail

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” With the conspicuous lack of snow and Vail delaying its opening day, the resorts cannot count on white-capped mountains to draw tourists, local businesses say.

Some Vail hotels especially report being quieter than usual, and many say they are hoping for a big snowstorm.

“A good snow always builds confidence. We’re looking forward to that,” said Pam Stenmark, general manager of the Evergreen Lodge.

Good, early snow makes the phones ring, especially if it is shown on national television, said Julie Goraj, marketing and communications manager for the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa.

“If the Broncos are playing and people see snow in the mountains on TV, the phones will be ringing off the hook,” she said.

November, even around Thanksgiving, tends to be a slower month for Vail, some businesses said. Most business comes from the Front Range or from group trips booking hotels, not from more distant travelers.

“Thanksgiving is kind of a crap shoot for most of the lodging around here,” Goraj said.

A big snow can also bring in early season tourists for restaurants like Pazzo’s in Vail.

“It’s been pretty slow,” said manager Dan Gonzalez. “Normally we’re open until 11 p.m., but lately we’ve been closeing at 9:30 or 10.”

For the Mountain Adventure Center in Vail Village, business was going to be slow even if the mountain opened as scheduled, said assistant manager Amy Williams.

The store is at the base of Vista Bahn run, which was not going to be able to open on opening day, she said.

“Rentals are going to suffer, and it’ll probably hurt us in retail, too,” she said.

Some businesses have changed their advertising strategies because of the lack of snow. Because there was little October snow to lure tourists, the Cascade played up their off-season deals instead.

“People tend to say, ‘Well, there’s no snow.’ So they’ll either go where there is snow, or we’ll have to give them another reason to come up here,” Goraj said.

The Cascade advertised their discounted room rates and two-for-one spa and restaurant offers.

The Marriott held off on a big advertising campaign planned for early November because of the weather, said Pete Hayda, director of sales and marketing at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and Spa.

“If we get an early snow, we start pushing the destination, but if there’s no snow, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money to promote at this time of year,” he said.

Unseasonably warm weather on the Front Range also hurts business in Vail, he said.

“Because it’s warm down there, people’s mental states are not on skiing. They’re golfing and having picnics right now,” he said.

But some businesses are focusing on local residents and Front Range visitors instead. This time of year is usually dead anyway, and Pepi’s Restaurant and Bar is seeing the upside of the warm weather, said director Kira Cameron.

“The nice weather is making lunches great. A lot of people are coming and wanting to eat on the deck,” she said.

The Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer is getting some Denver visitors who come up to avoid the crowds and take advantage of the off-season deals, she said.

“But if there’s a big snow Thanksgiving, we could have tons of bookings,” she said.

Pepi’s Sports manager Shuan Filiault said for early season, it is business as usual. Local residents getting ready for the season have been coming in, and high season for tourists will not hit until December, he said.

Early December is usually when hotels get busy too, and so far the Marriott is still booked for that time, Hayda said, but he is still counting on a big storm soon.

“Anybody who says we’re not worried about it is lying, but I guess it’s a good move to move the opening day back. It will be safer and better when it does open,” he said.

While it has been a slow start for business this season, that does not mean it will stay that way, said Stenmark of the Evergreen Lodge.

“People generally do respond to reports of good snow, but with media the way it is now, people have the information in a flash. If they hear there’s snow, they’ll turn around and make reservations,” she said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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