Romer: A look at the upcoming ski season
October snowstorms and an improved snowmaking expansion project at Vail Mountain have most locals optimistic for the rapidly approaching ski season. What does this mean for our tourism economy and local businesses?
Vail Mountain launched the first phase of a multi-year snowmaking expansion project that will result in a more predictable opening date, high-quality conditions during the early- and midseason, and more reliable conditions through mid-April. The resort will improve its existing snowmaking system and expand snowmaking on the upper mountain, resulting in 192 acres of new and enhanced snowmaking infrastructure for the 2019-2020 winter season, and allowing the resort to open terrain accessible from both Vail Village and Lionshead Village base areas.
This means a significant portion of the frontside beginner and intermediate terrain will be open earlier, enhancing both the guest experience and the early-season resort economy in both villages.
Mother nature is cooperating thus far and the town of Vail is investing in early season activation with Revely Vail, a Thanksgiving week celebration with family-oriented activities throughout Vail Village, including cooking classes, ice skating celebrations, Explosion of Lights and the Kris Kringle Market. A signature 10th Mountain Legacy Parade will also take place along the streets of Vail Village, honoring veterans and commemorating the legacy of Vail.
Looking past early season, lodging reservation trends for the winter season offer a mixed bag. According to DestiMetrics, which tracks lodging trends across ski resorts around the west, aggregated occupancy for the first five winter months (November through March), is up 0.4 percent compared to the same time last year. Most notably for the Vail Valley, occupancies are trending positive for November and December, with the January-March timeframe having more variability.
It is important to note that bookings to date are still relatively low in volume and subject to fluctuation depending on a variety of variables in the coming months–including snow conditions and economic shifts.
Economic and political news impact consumer confidence, and macro-economic trends certainly have a direct result on the destination travel market. This uncertainty in financial marketplaces can undermine consumer and employer confidence and is something to continue to monitor relative to lodging booking trends.
Locally, we can look to past years for guidance on what to expect for the upcoming season. From mountain opening through Presidents Day weekend, major holiday dates align with 2014 school patterns. Holiday break sees no schools in our key feeder markets having a break from December 14-19 and a shift in Hanukkah from early December to crossing over the Christmas/New Year peak season.
School spring break patterns do not align, with a more consistent spread of students on break throughout the month of March. At least 60% of Texas schools are out the week of March 7, and 40% are out the week of March 14 (compared to a 90%/10% split last year). Colorado schools are mainly split between the weeks of March 14 and March 21, although Denver is out starting March 28. This should be a positive impact on March business.
Easter is a week earlier than last year, and Chicago and Los Angeles schools are out on break starting April 4. The shift in Easter and school schedules should result in positive impact on April business.
One thing businesses can more directly control is customer service and ensuring visitors have a great experience. We invite you to join us for our all-new customer service training, Navigating Complex Customer Interactions, on Nov. 12 and Dec. 5.
Here’s to a great season ahead for our community and our visitors alike.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com