High end groups helping revenues
The ski season is heading into the heart of spring break. Crested Butte Mountain Resort officials are projecting that the next two weeks will be busy. And even when the numbers might be less than stellar, the resort is seeing some success in attracting visitors willing to spend more money than guests in past seasons.
For example, FTI Consulting, a high-end group that held a conference at Mountaineer Square last week, brought in about 350 clients, booking the entire Elevation Hotel. They also brought in the band Heart for a private concert, along with guest speakers, former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who also wrote the books Blink and The Tipping Point.
“FTI has indicated they want to come back next year,” said Crested Butte vacations director Jeff Moffett. “They had a great experience and really enjoyed the area. FTI not only helped CBMR, but a lot of restaurants and other businesses in town. They are an example of the group that comes in and spends a lot of money that benefits the local economy.”
On a purely volume scale, the week of March 14-21 is expected to be the peak of spring break. According to CBMR communications director Todd Walton, that week will bring between 3,000 and 6,000 skiers a day to the mountain. “These are solid days,” he said. “The following week will be busy as well, but we don’t have specific numbers yet. I’m hearing from other resorts they are down 15 to 35 percent overall. We are bucking that trend, especially in March.”
Rural Transportation Authority director Scott Truex said that so far this year, 1,822 more airline seats have been sold than last year, and 1,057 of those are in March. “Just last week we sold 699 seats,” said Truex.
Moffett is excited about the increase. He says the number of airline seats sold coming into Gunnison in March is currently running about 13 percent ahead of last year. “We are outperforming our competition in March,” said Moffett. “We are ahead of the pack in March compared to other resorts. I think we will finish the month with about the same numbers we saw in 2008 but the revenues should be up. In this economy, that’s an accomplishment.”
The resort has expanded its regional marketing efforts and Moffett and Walton credit that initiative with getting a significant number of Front Range and Western Slope skiers to the area. “We’ve had a good response from Colorado,” said Moffett. “These are good skiers and we are seeing them come here. They tend to look at the weather and book lodging at the last minute, but it is a good group to get to Crested Butte.”
Walton said the fact the resort is selling season passes in March has also created some interest from regional skiers.
The end of March and early April period is also attracting some conference groups. “While next week will be peak volume, we expect a steady business through the end of the season,” said Walton. “We are trying to drive business through the conference center to hedge our bets at the end of the season. We are seeing some positive trends.”
Moffett concluded, “To put some frosting on the March cake we are baking, our goal of attracting people who spend more money on their visits is working.”