Tourism biz kicks
into high gear
Snow aids projected
and GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writers
restaurants and the Hailey airport hummed with activity late last week as
last-minute tourists scrambled to arrange holidays in the Wood River
vacant seasonal condos and hotel rooms were scarce. Shops were busy, and
restaurant reservation books were quickly filling.
slow start to the winter season, "the good snow we got in December
really started getting the phones ringing," said Carol Waller,
executive director of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce.
At the end
of November, businesses blamed terrorist attacks on the East Coast, a
recession and no snow for a 30 to 50 percent reduction in Sun Valley
tourist numbers for that month. But, now, the ski hill is thickly
blanketed, and the tourism business appears to be nearly as good as it was
in previous years.
ever, ever needed early and abundant snow, this was the year," agreed
Sturtevants Ski and Sports owner Rob Santa. "We need to be eternally
grateful that December came in like a lion."
seasonís first major storm on Nov. 21 until Friday, the Ketchum Ranger
District station recorded 77 inches of snow in Ketchum. During the same
time last year, only 17 inches fell.
yesterday, our number of guest stays was identical to last December,"
Don Jackson, marketing manager of Base Mountain Properties, said Friday.
at the short-term condo rental companyís Ketchum office rang nonstop
Friday afternoon with procrastinating tourists seeking accommodations.
said this year is different from previous years when people booked condos
months in advance. This year, itís been a week to 30 days in advance.
The war in
Afghanistan is over, Wall Street has brightened and there is snow in Sun
Valley. "People are relieved and theyíre starting to travel,"
And in a
tourist town, travel equals business.
owner of Formula Sports on Main Street in Ketchum, said his skiing goods
business is on par with last yearís record December, and things are
looking up as the holidays draw nearer.
are lots of families and familiar faces coming in," he said. "We
expect a super busy holiday."
informally polling business owners, Waller said early December was "a
little soft" on the lodging and retail side, January and February
"look decent," and March looks soft again.
reason to be optimistic that it may not be as bleak as it could have
been," she said.
Sibbach, marketing director for Sun Valley Co., agrees. For Dec. 28
through Jan. 1, 90 percent of the resortís rooms were booked as of
weíre 99 percent booked for that 10-day period," he said. "Itís
not going to be great," but not as bad as it could have been.
Chamber Marketing Director Carrie Schiller-Westergard said Christmas
bookings through the chamberís central reservations office were between
80 and 85 percent.
only sporadic availability for Christmas," she said.
perhaps no better place to see that business had picked up than at the
busy? Yes, I am," said Tracy Vangelden, supervisor of the SkyWest
Airlines check-in desk. She didnít have exact numbers yet, but she
thought that as many travelers were arriving for the holidays as in
looks like a normal Christmas," said airport manager Rick Baird.
"Weíve got a terminal full of people and lots of corporates (jets)