Numbers rise at ski area as spring break approaches

Flights bringing in more people than last year

By Alissa Johnson

Spring break is still a few weeks away, but things are steadily growing busy at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) and around the valley. As spring break approaches, the community can expect a steady but manageable level of activity.

“Numbers are climbing,” says Erica Mueller, director of innovations and relations at CBMR. Each weekend from now until spring break, the resort is showing high occupancy levels.

Overall, February room nights are up 19 percent over last year, and Mueller expects the weekends of February 20 and February 27 to be hoppin’. March is about flat to last year—though there’s still time for that to change.

Spring break runs March 5 through March 19, and Mueller says that based on current projections, things will pick up steadily over that timeframe: the weekend of March 5-6 will be the slowest of the three weekends; the weekend of March 12-13 will pick up, and the weekend of March 19-20 is currently pacing to be the busiest part of spring break.

Unlike the winter holidays, when business boomed suddenly and then grew quiet, Mueller says that spring will be busy but steady.

“It really is keeping business steady instead of the big rush and then dead again. This should be awesome for the community to not get walloped for one week. We can provide better guest service, accommodating our guests with steadier business levels,” Mueller said.

The rise in visitors comes just in time for a bevy of spring events, from the inaugural Vertical Challenge this weekend to the Ski Town Breakdown on March 19, featuring a free show with KT Tunstall and other artists.

Jeff Moffett, senior analyst for Community Flights, confirmed that flights into the Gunnison Crested Butte Regional Airport reflect similar trends to resort lodging, though there is an increase in passengers in March.

In February, 5 percent more passengers are flying into the Gunnison Crested Butte Regional Airport than February 2014. And in March, 16 percent more visitors are flying into the community—all spread fairly evenly through the month, particularly the first three weeks.

Moffett observed that everyone from the Gunnison Crested Butte Tourism Association to CBMR has been working hard to fill those airline seats.

“Even with all the good snow, there are factors at play throughout the economy that have kept everyone working hard [at promotions],” Moffett said. “We’ve seen continuous improvement for winter as a whole. It’s been a lot of work but that work has paid off.”

In general, Moffett says, all markets are performing well but there are differences in the ways that people seem to plan and book trips. With the Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles, people tend to book trips closer to their actual visit.

“Our core visitors from the southeast and Texas are inclined to make bigger plans further in advance,” Moffett said.

Overall, the inaugural season of the Los Angeles flight is going well but Moffett hopes, in addition to bringing visitors to the valley, more locals will utilize the service for weekend getaways.

Moffett says, “We’re on track for a really good first year but it’s a small program… If we can get several more trips out of the local community, we can go from good first year to great first year and that’s what you need to grow the program.”

In the meantime, however, it’s clear that folks sticking around the valley will see a steady influx of tourists over the next several weeks.

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