“Very strong December”
With President’s Day Weekend and Spring Break on the horizon, Crested Butte Mountain Resort officials say December was strong and the future looks good. Both Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte posted strong sales tax revenues as well, with visitors attracted by the better-than-average snow conditions.
With December and the holiday season behind it, CBMR is now turning its focus to the upcoming President’s Day Weekend and Spring Break rush. Ken Stone, CBMR chief marketing officer and vice president, says although there is still availability for President’s Day Weekend, lodging is pacing above last year. “The community can count on a very busy President’s Day Weekend,” Stone says.
As for March, Stone says, reservations are developing slowly and the resort has bookings slightly behind this same time last year. However, Stone is optimistic the situation will change. “I am sure with the good snow conditions, reservations will increase,” Stone says.
Jeff Moffett, director of Crested Butte Vacations, says the Spring Break rush is more likely to be spread out through March, as schools in Texas have started staggering Spring Break weeks. “Traditionally, we experience a real spike in March, but with the change it spreads out the visitors,” Moffett says, noting the change will extend the average 5,000 skiers over the month. “Booking patterns have changed.”
Stone says a recent survey found 45 percent of those surveyed were first-time visitors, due in part to the increased positive press coverage the resort has received lately and the above-average snow conditions.
“We are attracting new people and the future looks good,” Stone says.
The positive outlook comes on the hills of a successful December and holiday season.
Overall, skier visits were up 17 percent in December from last year, according to Moffett. “It was a very strong December,” Moffett says. During the Christmas to New Year’s week, December 25 to January 1, the resort saw a 14 percent growth in skier visits.
The busiest day during the holiday week was Saturday, December 30 with 6,584 skier visits, and Thursday, January 3 came in second with 6,272. Moffett says the strong December performance continued through the first week of January and helped the resort post much stronger results for January as well. Moffett says the timing of holidays is the reason for change.
CBMR has a goal of 425,000 skier visits this season. “We had a very strong Christmas this year due to the performance of the airlines and drive market, and the good snow conditions,” says Stone. “We were leading in snow depth at the time.”
Stone says load factors for airlines flying into Gunnison—one of the best indicators for destination visitors—were very strong in December with 73 percent combined for United and American Airlines. Moffett says United officials told CBMR during a recent meeting the airline was extremely pleased with the December program.
The increased skiers resulted in increased traffic for local businesses in Mt. Crested Butte. The town collected $307,525 in sales tax revenues during December—up from 2006’s tally of $250,112. Sales tax collected for November 2007 was only $67,628.
Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick says although the tax revenue was well received, it didn’t quite meet the town’s expectations.
The Town of Crested Butte did not fare quite as well as its neighbor to the north, collecting only $224,388 in sales tax revenues, slightly down from the previous year. However, December receipts were nearly double November’s.
Another indication of a successful December is ridership on the Mountain Express shuttle service, according to Chris Larsen, director of the program. Larsen says ridership finished strong in December due in part to the Ski Free program at CBMR, the first Butte Bash event and the early snowstorms.
Ridership was up 23 percent from December 2006, with 134,519 passengers, compared to 109,064. Larsen says ridership increased on all four routes, but was slightly down during the holiday week. From December 22 to January 1 Mountain Express carried 55,152 passengers, compared to 56,677 in 2006.