Thanksgiving lodging bookings pretty normal, then ramp up for Christmas/New Year’s
[ By Kendra Walker ]
While Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) is scheduled to open on Wednesday, November 25, the mountain has been preparing for a different kind of ski season, with new COVID-19 health protocols and a new reservation system in place.
The mountain plans to operate the Red Lady Express and Peachtree lifts for opening day, as well as the Aspen and Pine magic carpets. CBMR senior communications specialist Will Shoemaker said the terrain expected to be open includes Augusta, High Tide, Ski School learning area, Warming House Hill, Lower Keystone, Peanut, Bubba’s Ski Way and Houston.
“We will follow our historical practice of working to open as many lifts and as much terrain as soon as possible, as weather and conditions allow, to provide the on-mountain experience our guests expect,” said Shoemaker.
Due to focusing on COVID-19 protocols this year, CBMR did not make any major changes to terrain or lifts, but did conduct maintenance and upgrades to the snowmaking system over the summer, with new hoses and snowmaking guns.
Pass holders have exclusive access to the slopes from opening day to December 8, and can make unlimited week-of reservations through the entire season as availability and pass type allows. This is in addition to being able to book seven priority reservation days during the core season from December 8 to April 4.
Face coverings will be required to access the mountain, including in lift lines, while loading and unloading chairlifts and in restaurants, retail and rental shops. Though not required while skiing, facemasks are highly encouraged.
CBMR has made adjustments to the lift lines to ensure six feet of spacing between people, and only related parties can load together on chairlifts, or two unrelated singles on opposite ends of a four-person chair.
Restaurant seating capacities will be limited and spaced, and will promote a one-way traffic flow. “We will be monitoring and managing the capacity of our lodges. However, people will be able to access restrooms,” said Shoemaker. Regarding restrooms, he said, “We will work to allow for physical distancing throughout our operations to help ensure a safe experience.”
Menu offerings will be limited and full-service bars will be closed; however, packaged beer and wine will be available at some locations. Water fountains are closed, but water bottle refill stations will still be available for use.
Shoemaker said CBMR has a great base of seasonal employees and the resort is appropriately staffed for the winter season. Vail also ramped up recruiting efforts to provide as many local employment opportunities as possible, he said.
“We have also found interest among students who have more flexibility now due to online learning or deferring college attendance for a year,” said Shoemaker. “And our employees from prior seasons have shown enthusiasm to return.” He noted that CBMR is still actively hiring for both seasonal and year-round positions.
Lodging bookings are typically mellow for a CBMR opening and the Thanksgiving holiday, given the limited open terrain, and this year is no exception.
“To be honest we’re only booked at 30 percent for Thanksgiving right now, but that’s not unusual. Thanksgiving is never full,” said Nordic Inn general manager Linda Wasserman. “But from what we’ve seen this summer, it might still fill up. People are waiting until literally the last minute to book accommodations,” she said. “So you never know, it could pick up a little more.”
Wasserman says the Christmas and New Year’s window is close to being fully booked already, which is similar to what other hotels and vacation rentals are experiencing right now.
“More people are booking for Christmas and New Year’s, and I do feel that it’s pacing pretty similar to past years,” said Elevation Hotel front office manager Brandon Cvilikas, who also noted that their Thanksgiving bookings are pacing a little slow but normal. “With the whole shutdown during Spring Break last year we gave everyone certificates and credit to use at a future date, and I do feel like people are using that toward this holiday season rather than the next Spring Break.”
Wasserman has also noticed that the Nordic Inn’s two stand-alone units are more popular this year. “People want their own space right now, and those units are filling up much quicker and far more in advance than the standard hotel rooms,” she said.
Crested Butte Lodging director of sales and marketing Kate Schmidt agrees. “There certainly is a difference in our hotel versus vacation rental bookings. There’s definitely a push leaning more toward vacation rentals where you have your own space, you can cook your own dinner, you don’t have to go out,” she said.
Schmidt said opening weekend, although relatively small in numbers, will be busier than prior years and winter is looking strong so far for Crested Butte Lodging bookings.
“Momentum for the winter season has been building up in reservations for the last four to six weeks. We’ve seen an immense increase in online bookings following the release of the EpicPass reservation system,” Schmidt said. “Projections forward through December, January, and February are far exceeding expectations, with increases of 23 percent to 43 percent in revenue pace comparison to last year.”