Preliminary winter bookings in Breckenridge are pacing ahead of the same time last year, something that gives hope for a busy ski season, but doesn't fully guarantee a home run.
The holiday period is pacing up; January through mid-February shows increases for the majority of the days. March 16-23 is also ahead of last season's bookings from the same time last year.
It's all good news considering that going into the 2011-12 season, the bookings were pretty strong after a great snow year. Heading into this ski season, Summit County is coming off of a pretty weak one.
Part of the strong early bookings is the holidays - people are trying to get those prime units, according to Bill Wishowski, vice president of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. In January and February, some of it is group-related, but it's also due to the International Snow Sculpture Championships, which continue to get more and more popular every year, Wishowski said.
The uptick in bookings is good, but the BRC is "still kind of waiting with baited breath to see how things shape up," he said.
"Last year was very strong going into the season as far as advanced reservations, then going into it, reservation momentum waned because of snow," said Ralf Garrison, director of the Mountain Travel Research Program, a lodging performance benchmarking organization which compiles its data from property management companies in 16 mountain destination communities across Colorado, Utah, California and Oregon.
Across the board, 2011-12 lodging wasn't really down that much compared to the season before, but lift ticket sales were. Visitors already had their hotel reservations, and when they went and didn't find snow, they just stayed and shopped, which was good for the destinations, Garrison said.
The two wild cards going into this year are the economy and the weather: There's some uncertainty with the weather because of last year, and while the economy is slowly improving, there's doubt surrounding the upcoming elections and possible fiscal cliff.
Resorts counter those uncertainties by luring customers in through good deals, and potential visitors place their bets on the destinations with the best reputations, Garrison said.
But, if he could preach to the resorts, he'd tell them that "it's too early to be overly concerned about weather or economy," he said. "Given the uncertainty, things are looking pretty good."