December bookings down at Vail

School break may shape turnout on Colorado’s slopes

From left, Izabella Howe, Clay Siebel, Betty Box and Eddie Box from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe prepare to dance in early January this year in Vail Village. They were there to perform a traditional dance for moisture to encourage snowfall. Snow is scarce again so far this winter, and reservations at Vail Valley lodges are low for all of December except the week between Christmas and New Years. Enlarge photo

Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily, Associated Press file photo

From left, Izabella Howe, Clay Siebel, Betty Box and Eddie Box from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe prepare to dance in early January this year in Vail Village. They were there to perform a traditional dance for moisture to encourage snowfall. Snow is scarce again so far this winter, and reservations at Vail Valley lodges are low for all of December except the week between Christmas and New Years.

EAGLE COUNTY (AP) Its a syndrome as old as the ski business: Scant snow equals furrowed brows.

Some Vail Valley lodges and property managers report theyre sold out for the week between Christmas and Jan. 1. But the rest of December isnt as cheerful, and that has some in the valley worried.

Right now, were at 30 (percent) to 40 percent, at best, for the week before Christmas, Antlers Lodge General Manager Rob LeVine said.

In normal years, LeVine said the Antlers would be 80 percent booked, or more, in that week at rates nearly equal to those charged during Christmas week.

Tommy Hoffman, owner of Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, said his business is up, just slightly, for the end of the year. And, he added, hes heard stories of other lodges reservations being down, and significantly, from last year.

LeVine, for one, isnt terribly worried. At least not yet.

For one thing, there really isnt anything anyone can do about snow levels.

But the calendar which puts Christmas and New Years Day on Tuesdays may have more to do with lighter reservation numbers this year than the weather.

The Eagle County School Districts holiday break starts Dec. 24, and the kids last day of school is Dec. 20. School starts again Jan. 7. Most schools are following a similar holiday schedule. Vail Valley Partnership Executive Director Chris Romer said having kids in school until the weekend before Christmas will, by definition, put a brake on reservations the week before.

Its always this way when those holidays fall on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, Romer said.

Because the Partnership is one of the valleys main reservation services, Romer gets to see reservation numbers for the coming weeks and months. He acknowledged that reservations for the week before Christmas are pacing behind last year. But the pace of reservations for the last week of December actually is running ahead of last years numbers, he said. January reservations are OK, Romer said, and February and March are fine.

Steve Virostek runs Triumph Mountain Properties. Part of that companys business is vacation rentals, with about 40 units available. He said that part of the operation is running well right now.

Were up over 200 percent over last year, Virostek said. Weve had a couple of early cancelations, but thats it.

The long-term rental market rentals for at least several months seems to be strong, too.

Onie Bolduc, of Bold Property Solutions an Avon-based real estate and property-management company said his company has fewer vacancies for this season than the previous couple. Thats a sign of an improving real estate market, which has been reflected in the number of sales so far this year.

Bolduc, who grew up in the valley, said he understands the snow anxiety in the valley but isnt worried just yet.

Weve had Thanksgiving without snow a lot ... and we havent had a lot of World Cup races with the whole mountain open, he said.

LeVine has spent most of his life in the valley, too. He said theres still time for snow to have an effect on the holiday season.

If we get some significant snow in the next week or two, thatll help, LeVine said. If its past (Dec. 15), it wont really help us. ... Even the people who wait, at some point, will say, Were going somewhere. Every day that goes by without snow, we lose some of that business.

Everyone wants snow, of course, but Virostek said that Vail had a record month for sales tax in December of last year, when Vail Mountain hadnt yet opened the Back Bowls. That, he believes, is because of Vails decade-long renovation, which put a lot more amenities into the town.

And there still are people who own vacation property in Vail or Beaver Creek who will come to the valley for their holiday celebrations.

But that group is a relatively small part of the total crowd the valley hopes to host at the end of the year. Rich tenBraak, executive director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association, said that group still shops and dines but doesnt pay lodging tax, which will show up on town and county balance sheets.

But people are coming for the holidays, no matter how white this Christmas may end up.

I had a client email me from Mexico this morning asking whether she should cancel ski school for her kids, Bolduc said. She didnt say she wasnt coming, just whether to cancel ski school. People will be here, and if they cant ski, theyre going to the movies or out shopping.

So (snow) is concerning, but its not a concern.