Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Resort, stores record mixed sales figures

Sun Valley skier numbers on par with last year Holidays

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Resort reported strong skier counts and occupancy numbers this week, offset by concerns that persistent dry weather might discourage potential visitors from coming in early 2005.

Meanwhile, Ketchum retailers reported positive sales figures for the month of December, with those reporting strong sales outnumbering those who saw a decline.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley director of sales and marketing, said the resort's lodging accommodations are booked to near capacity this week.

The solid bookings for the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, however, came with a caveat, Sibbach noted. With Christmas and New Year's days falling on Saturday, visitors tended to travel mainly during the week in between.

"Having Christmas on a Saturday really hurts your business," Sibbach said. "We usually plan for about 14 days of good business, but when Christmas is on Saturday, you end up with about seven days."

Skier and snowboarder counts at the resort's two mountains were solid over Christmas weekend, Sibbach said.

Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain together attracted 3,275 visitors on Christmas Day. Skier and snowboarder counts jumped the following two days, with totals reaching 4,407 and 5,638 respectively.

The numbers are approximately the same as those tallied during the same three days last year. Sun Valley expects its total skier count to reach approximately 91,000 by the end of December, close to last year's number.

Sibbach predicted skier counts would remain strong through New Year's Day, when the resort expects to see its occupancies decline, in part because dry weather has persisted in recent weeks.

"The phones are not ringing as much as we would like them to," Sibbach said. "It's hard to convince people in the Northwest that the skiing here is actually very good ... They're just not thinking about snow."

In Ketchum, many businesses this week reported strong sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Formula Sports, a Main Street outdoor-sports retailer, reported very strong sales.

"We are having a very good Christmas season," said Bob Gordon, store owner. "It seemed like more people were here before Christmas."

A Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau survey of 19 businesses indicated that up to Tuesday, Dec. 28, 10 were experiencing stronger holiday sales than in December 2003. Six businesses reported sales on par with last year and only three told the Chamber that sales were down.

"For me, it just points to a better economy," Gordon said. "Our summer and fall were really strong, too."

Repeating a mantra that is common to ski-area marketers, Sibbach said the strength of January and February business depends largely on one four-letter word.

"We need snow," he said.

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