A 39-Inch Base and More Snow Forecast
TELLURIDE - After a string of storms in October and November, the Telluride Ski area is boasting a 39-inch base. With the sound of avalanche bombs echoing off Telluride and Mountain Village buildings, local businesses are experiencing a promising start to the 2013-2014 ski season.
Adding to the seasonal cheer, Telluride ranked first in the Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 reader’s poll of top ski resorts in North America for the second year in a row.
As a point of comparison, Telluride reported only a foot of snow at the beginning of last ski season. Moreover, building the course for last year’s Snowboardcross World Cup consumed much of the mountain’s snowmaking capacity, making it difficult for the mountain to open other portions of the mountain to skiers.
But since Telski declined to host the World Cup this year, snowmaking crews will be able to build on great natural snowfall to open more of the mountain earlier.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had this much snow this early,” said Tom Watkinson, the public relations and communications manager for Telski. “We’re having one of the best starts in recent memory. If Mother Nature keeps working with us, we’ll have expedited terrain openings well ahead of past years. The quality of skiing will be off the chart.
“Coupled with the improvements we’ve had in snowmaking, the feeling up here is great. I can’t remember such a great start to a winter,” he added.
And plenty more snow may be on the way.
Meteorologist Joe Ramey of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, who has been predicting weather since 1989, said the 2013-2014 winter looks like a wildcard. While he has formally predicted “neutral” snowfall levels, his forecast indicates that this ski season could produce exorbitant snowfalls, especially in December.
“This kind of year, neutral, indicates that all possibilities are open. I recall the winter of 1992-1993 had the same outlook and was a very wet and snowy one for the San Juans,” he said. “Right now, particularly in the San Juans, we’ve had lots of snow already. We’re looking at a really wet December going forward,” he added.
The early snowfall and encouraging weather forecasts have helped drive business.
“The snow has kept the phone ringing with reservations,” said Amanda Acosta, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Telluride. “It looks like it’s going to be a good winter. Year over year for December, we’re double. And for the first quarter in 2014, we’re already five percent ahead from the year before,” she added.
Watkinson said the TelSki-owned accommodations, which include the Inn at Lost Creek, are outperforming last year. “We’ve already surpassed reservations for December and January,” he added.
The Lumière, is experiencing a similar surge in advance bookings
“Last year was strong, but what’s more encouraging is to see a high volume of repeat bookings year-on-year, which gives us a terrific baseline,” said Lumiere general manager Clare Evans.
“We’re already 33 percent ahead of the same time last year. In the first quarter next year, we’re already 20 percent ahead from the same quarter of 2013,” Evans added.
Element 52, an Auberge resort located in Telluride, is also feeling the surge of increased demand for Telluride lodging.
“Due to an increase in demand, six additional rental residences were added to the Auberge rental pool in December 2012. Again in August 2013, three new residences were added to the rental pool. Typically with an increase in supply, demand can go down, however we have not seen this to be true with our bookings,” said Element 52 general manager Jacqueline Glockler.
Retailers are sharing in the optimism.
“Just with the economy seeming to perform stronger, our numbers are real strong. The stars seem to be aligning, if you will,” said Bootdoctors owner and co-founder Bob Gleason. “Especially with the good base we have right now; this is a really positive start. People are more willing to buy their gear earlier because they know they’re not going to trash it on a thin base.”
The early uptick in business can be partly attributed to Telski, the Telluride Tourism board and the Colorado Flight Alliance, which began a collaborative marketing effort in the fall. TelSki also announced it hired Backbone Media, the tourism board’s media buying agency, to engage more aggressively in pinpointed marketing outreach.
The collaborative campaign includes digital banner ads that are seen on computers, tablets and smartphones. Telski has also earmarked additional funding for traditional print advertising to diversify the multi-pronged marketing outreach approach.
Michael Martelon, the tourism board’s CEO and president, said the effort is already paying off. “I think the exciting thing is that airline loads picked up dramatically when the marketing hit,” he said.
“What many people don’t realize is that the average person that stays in Telluride or Mountain Village spends 40 percent of their total dollars spent in the region on lodging,” Martelon said. “The other 60 percent is spent down in the towns on food and beverage, retail or lift tickets.”
Matt Skinner, Chief Operating Officer of CFA, agrees that the collaborative marketing effort has paid off, resulting in more visitors to Telluride traveling by air.
“Air bookings are looking solid, with total passengers up slightly for the season,” Skinner said. “November has been a strong sales month, with the combined TSG-TTB-CFA marketing campaign hitting in earnest and resulting in a 30 percent increase in weekly sales. The recent snow should also help continue to boost sales, and we have a great opportunity with added seats in February and March to grow visitation for the year.
“Our low-cost Allegiant flights, including the new LAX service, are off to a much stronger start this year, and we love to see such heavy local usage of those flights, including family, friends and business partners,” Skinner added.