Holiday bookings are strong in Vail Valley

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— Local lodges are gearing up for a busy holiday season, but there still are some rooms available.

Local lodges contacted Wednesday were full, mostly. The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has a few rooms available for just Christmas night, and the company is offering those rooms at $159.

Pam Smith, director of leisure sales at the Hyatt, said the one-day rate is a way for the hotel to try to hit 100 percent occupancy for the season, and said the rate is aimed more at local residents who might have family in town, since it’s just for one night.

Vail Mountain Lodge & Spa General Manager Frank Johnson said that property has “a few holes” in the holiday week, too.

“The way the holidays have fallen this year, people are in kind of a strange travel pattern,” Johnson said. With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Sunday, but with many destination guests arriving and leaving on Saturday, there are some vacancies, he said.

Vail Racquet Club general manager Matt Ivy said the story is similar at that East Vail lodge. But, Ivy said, he’s expecting last-minute reservations, even during Christmas.

“We’re actually filling up more for the first week in January,” Ivy said, adding that post-holiday room rates seem to be attracting travelers.

Ivy said the Racquet Club is still seeing quite a few late reservations, continuing a trend that started in 2009. During 2009 and 2010, many in the travel industry wondered if last-minute bookings had become more than a trend, but standard practice.

But Smith said Park Hyatt customers are starting to return to their old practices of booking rooms either several weeks or a few months before they travel.

Returning guests know which suites they want, Smith said, and call early to make sure they get those rooms. And, she added, the hotel is starting to see a boost in reservations for other winter holidays and March spring break guests.

“It’s encouraging,” Smith said. “It’s getting a little easier to forecast.”

While holiday bookings are strong at many mountain resorts, those reservations seem to be strongest at Vail and Beaver Creek.

It’s not because of abundant snow this year — just about all of North America is short on the white stuff so far this season — but Vail Valley Partnership Executive Director Chris Romer said there are other factors at work here.

“You’ve got reputation coming off of a great snow year last year, but here we really have quality of experience,” Romer said.

Vail is full of events over the holiday season, and Beaver Creek has a family program as well, Romer said. Those events mean that a trip to either resort is “more than a mountain experience,” Romer said.

“You can mitigate a lot of things you can’t control,” he added. “If you can control programming in your community, that’s a good thing.”

And, while some may think bustling villages for the Christmas holidays is something of a given, Romer said there’s more to the season than just rolling out the welcome mats and expecting people to come.

“In these peak seasons, we really need to work that much harder,” he said.

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