Lodging and fishing off the hook
Hopes are high and the early indications point to a summer season that’s going to be good for business in the Gunnison Valley.
Michelle Burns at the Inn at Crested Butte says that after a sluggish start to April last year, this year was a bit of a boon with guests starting to arrive as soon as spring came to the valley. And the pace hasn’t slowed much, with patrons making reservations via the Internet, over the phone and at the front desk. And it’s not unusual.
“We have been booking weddings and one wedding party has reserved the entire hotel, so it’s exciting,” Burns says. “We have had people calling in for Restaurant Week and the Wildflower Festival and pretty much all of July and August are getting busy.”
Many of those online reservations, Burns points out, were for people who had never been to Crested Butte with an equal opportunity to spend time in Aspen and Telluride. “I think people are really choosing to stay in our area,” she said.
Crested Butte Property Management’s Tracy Brooks says a rush of people have come early to the properties they oversee as well and vacationers are staying anywhere from a couple of nights to a month or more. “We’re definitely fuller earlier,” she says. “There’s been an early surge.”
The Ruby Bed & Breakfast owner Chris Greene sees a distinct clientele between the summer and winter seasons and is already moving past the slow winter months with occupancy this month that doubled last May.
On Tuesday, Greene and his wife Andrea opened the Ruby’s doors to a couple from Germany and he says there’s more international travelers coming their way, thanks to a relationship they’ve developed with a good old fashioned travel agency.
Mixing the old ways of marketing with the new is working well for the Greenes, who have already filled the Ruby to capacity through June, July and August with an even mix of return clients, new guests and guests who have been to town, but never to their bed and breakfast. “The only place we can grow in those months is with our rates,” he says.
The Ruby gets rave reviews online, and it’s not the only place in the valley that garners great feedback from the people who have been here, which Greene thinks helps the overall appeal for people looking online. It’s a reliable way to predictably stay in fine accommodations and find a good meal.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort also holds a good position online, with top ratings on Tripadvisor.com for its accommodations at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, The Elevation and Grand Lodge.
CBMR public relations and communications manager Erica Reiter says occupancy was up 67 percent in May, without a lot of forwarning. Instead, a lot of guests just stopped in.
And it isn’t just the hoteliers who have seen reservations turn the corner into summer. Low, clear water in the area’s rivers and streams is bringing the fishing season to bear at just the right time for the local guide services.
Dragonfly Anglers owner Rod Cesario says the low water has put people on the rivers sooner than they might have been in an average year, and that helps give visitors what they want when they get here.
“Runoff ends earlier, fishing starts earlier and actually matches up better with tourist season,” he says, adding that the conditions were difficult on the rivers around this time last year. But this year, the best fishing will arrive just in time for the most visitors.
As a result, Cesario foresees a few more people booking flyfishing trips for June than in years past as the fishing picks up. Then July is always good. But the flip side to the early fishing season could be a dangerous rise in water temperatures, as the days continue to get hotter and the water keeps falling.
“A rainy summer could help the late-summer and fall fishing considerably,” he says. “We are blessed with an enormous amount of fishing variety and always have productive fishing somewhere no matter what water conditions we see. High mountain lakes are a great alternative when streams are low and we have many fine mountain lakes.”
Jason White, who just reopened the Crested Butte Angler in its new location on Elk Avenue, says he saw a well-rounded crowd in town during the Memorial Day weekend, and was happy he wasn’t shoveling snow like he was last year at this time.
“The fishing is great and the conditions are as good as we’ve seen them in years,” White says. As the long-term and short-term vacationers start making their way to the Valley, he predicts a great summer ahead. As for the late-summer months, White knows the monsoon rains can come and wash away any worry of dangerously low water.
“We’ve seen low water years and we’ve had great fishing on low water years. And while we can never have too much water, low water makes for easier wading and some fantastic fall fishing on the lower Gunnison. But a lot of things can happen.”
And if little changes in the weather pattern, Three Rivers Resort owner Mark Schumacher isn’t worried, since he has fishing guides on good water and the rafting season will be relatively unchanged, thanks to a consistent 250 cubic feet per second flow from the Taylor dam. The steady flow will maintain the rapids people come to ride, without giving them the dousing they’ve gotten in years past.
“As long as we get some rainfall and the projected inflows to Taylor Reservoir, we’re going to have 250 cfs through August 15, which is what we get in some normal years,” Schumacher says. “Don’t have the 680 [cfs] we had last year for 15 days. Don’t have big rollers that get you wet. But it’s about as fast and there are more rapids.
“We’re looking forward to a good year.”
Singletrack around the valley and on the Mountain are just making the season sweeter for everyone, with CBMR making the most of it. The Resort will open a weekend earlier than planned, starting up the Red Lady Express June 9 and 10. Full operations will start Saturday, June 16. “The trails throughout the valley have been in great shape for a few weeks now,” says Ethan Mueller, VP and general manager for CBMR. “We wanted to celebrate the early start to summer in the Colorado Rockies, by opening a weekend early for guests who are looking to get to the high country and experience the exceptional spring conditions at the resort.”