Winter season starts well for most tourist businesses
The success or failure of Glenwood’s winter tourism season boils down to a pretty simple equation: snowfall + the economy = a good, bad or middling season.So far this year, Mother Nature has done her job and blanketed Sunlight Mountain Resort with enough snow to attract local skiers, Front Range residents and out of state church groups.The economy, however, hasn’t come through like the early snowstorms that dumped on the Roaring Fork Valley.”We’re still suffering the effects of the national economy,” said Hot Springs Lodge & Pool general manager Kjell Mitchell.All in all, the winter season of 2002-2003 is off to a good start, but it’s a mixed bag for businesses that profit from out-of-town skiers and snowboarders.”I think the first week of Christmas was a little slower than last year,” said Nicky Brouillette, owner of the Daily Bread Cafe on Grand Avenue.Across the street at the Springs Restaurant, manager Cyndie Reed said, “Last week we did a lot of business, and it seemed like it was all tourists. We saw a ton of skiers.”Figures from Glenwood Springs’ central reservation system, which books reservations for 14 properties, were not available at press time. But at the 120-room Ramada Inn, business is up this holiday season over last year.”It’s been very good,” said Ramada Inn general manager Claude Masson. “We had an excellent weekend, and an excellent week coming into that.”Church youth groups from Oklahoma and Texas helped to make the Ramada Inn a busy place the past two weeks. “We’ve done a little better after the holidays than before the holidays,” Masson said. “Hopefully, this is a good omen.”Masson said the Ramada Inn is also getting a boost from a contract with American Airlines, which books rooms for its flight crews that fly into the Eagle County Airport during ski season.”That amounts to 12 to 18 rooms a day,” Masson said.At the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, Mitchell said business at the pool is comparable to last year, but flat or down “a hair” at the lodge.Glenwood Springs relies on Front Range visitors, and recent news that Colorado employers have laid off 60,000 workers this year got Mitchell’s attention.”With layoffs, people will be tightening their belts,” Mitchell said. “They’ll have less money to spend.”Mitchell said he is optimistic the economy will turn around, and more out-of-town visitors will return to Glenwood Springs, “But it will be a slow recovery.”Glenwood Springs also benefits from a ski/swim/stay package offered by Sunlight Mountain Resort, the Hot Springs Pool and 13 lodges. “Sales have been good,” said Turi Nevin-Turkel, Sunlight’s marketing director. “I don’t have the numbers, but we’re seeing an increase over last year.”Said Mitchell, “These packages really let us take advantage of the early snow.”Although the package allows Sunlight, the Hot Springs Pool, lodges and restaurants to cash in on an infusion of out of town dollars, the trickle stops short of many other retailers. Downtown, shopkeepers at the Watersweeper & the Dwarf gift shop and Martha’s Vineyard report that skiers have been slow to spend.”In the past during Christmas, we did about half and half locals and tourists,” said Watersweeper owner Pat Roberts. “This year there was a higher percentage of locals.”A Martha’s Vineyard, which sells custom-made leather goods and original art, the 2002 holiday season has not been a banner year. “It’s not our worst year,” said owner Mexi Corry. “But people aren’t spending as freely.”Some Front Range skiers who hit Sunlight’s slopes arrive on the daily Chicago-to-San Francisco Amtrak Zephyr, which stops in Denver before continuing to Glenwood Springs. Amtrak spokespersons in Chicago were not available for comment on holiday travel numbers, but a Glenwood Springs Amtrak staffer said ridership has been good.”It was just as strong as last year for the holidays,” said the Glenwood Springs worker. “I just put 90 people on the train to Denver. I think we’re doing good business. We’re holding our own.”Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext email@example.com
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.