Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow plus holiday equals success

Resort reports best numbers in 16 years

Express Staff Writer

Crowds flocked to Bald Mountain this past weekend, as seen here at the River Run base area, making it the busiest Presidents Day weekend for Sun Valley since 1995. Photo by Willy Cook

It should come as no surprise to anyone who saw Bald Mountain's River Run parking lots last weekend that Sun Valley Resort attracted more skiers then than it had on any other Presidents Day weekend since 1995. Cars even overflowed the overflow parking lots on Sunday, forcing drivers to be creative in finding a spot.

Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said the resort's staff is "ecstatic" about the increased business, with not only the mountain making headway, but retail and room sales as well. He said much of that is due to the snow that started falling Thursday, just in time. Prior to that, grass was poking through across the valley, hills were turning from white to brown and the snow on ski runs was becoming harder.

"The snow helps everybody," Sibbach said.

Bob Rosso, owner of the Ketchum outdoor-sports store The Elephant's Perch, couldn't agree more. He said people were getting worried before the snow arrived, but its descent upon the valley shifted the mood.

"It just relieves the stress," he said, adding that the crowds that followed took his business by surprise last weekend. "Downtown's busy with people and everyone's happier."

Rosso said this Presidents Day weekend was stronger than most for his store, and he needed it.

"January was as flat as a pancake," he said of the month that saw almost no snow. "This has been a strong jump."

The jump was reflected in the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce's weekly hotel occupancy report. Reserved hotel occupancy before the Feb. 17-19 long weekend was 80 percent in Ketchum/Sun Valley and 34 percent in Hailey/Bellevue. The actual occupancy for the same weekend of 2010 was 75 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Plus, the actual occupancy for last weekend is expected to be even higher, according to Toni Bogue, interim chamber manager.

"The occupancy always is higher than that projected because of walk-ins," she said, also attributing the high numbers to snow that came in the nick of time.

She said it attracted those from Boise and nearby who weren't planning on coming until they heard about the snow.

"The mountain was insane. I know that from just being up there," she said, adding that the on-mountain lodges were all "packed."

Just because the mountain was unusually busy for the weekend doesn't mean all businesses experienced a correlating increase.

Nina Jonas, owner of Rickshaw restaurant in Ketchum, said she received a jump in business over the weekend but no more so than any other Presidents Day weekend.

"It held true compared to previous years," she said.

Her business, like many, depends on the mountain's seasons.

"We close [for slack] when the mountain closes," she said, adding that Rickshaw usually experiences a noticeable decline in customers at the beginning of April. "It's amazing how much it slows down in one day."

The resort has scheduled April 24, Easter Sunday, as its goal for the ski season's closing day. Sibbach said the success of the resort's days from now to then partly hinges on the experiences of those visiting for Presidents Day weekend.

"What's important is that they go home and tell their friends," he said.

Trevon Milliard:

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