Crowds pack Summit County for Christmas, New Year’s | SummitDaily.com

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Crowds pack Summit County for Christmas, New Year’s

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

With the national economy on a slow path to stabilization, crowds of vacationers came surging back to Summit County, packing the resorts, restaurants and roads over the holidays.

As the busiest week of the year draws to a close, initial numbers and reports indicate tourist visits between Christmas and New Year’s were at least on par, and possibly up from last year despite the lack of snow.

The number of incoming cars from the Eisenhower Tunnel this weekend surged from last year’s numbers. More than 23,000 vehicles passed through the tunnel on Interstate 70 westbound Friday, up by nearly 5,000 vehicles from Dec. 30, 2010.

Almost 19,000 vehicles were counted heading westbound through the tunnel on Thursday and westbound counts on Saturday had exceeded 4,000 vehicles by noon.

Lodging occupancy in Breckenridge was expected to hit 75-85 percent between Christmas and New Year’s, and room rentals between Dec. 27 and Jan. 1 are on track to be flat or up from last year, according to the most recent numbers provided by the Breckenridge Resort Chamber. Final numbers will not be available until January.

“The really encouraging sign is that we appear to be on a path to growth, despite below-average snow …” said Breckenridge Resort Managers president Toby Babich, who heads up the Breckenridge Lodging Association. “This holiday season again demonstrated the loyalty of our destination visitor seeking the Breckenridge holiday experience.”

Those in the ski and hospitality industry countywide had similar positive reports following the holiday week.

“It’s been busy,” Keystone Resort spokeswoman Laura Parquette said. “The village has been bustling.”

Restaurants also reported an increase in business this week from holidays in the past. Some chalked the increase up to the lack of snow, which they said might have encouraged people to spend less time on the slopes and more in restaurants.

“I think it was almost busier than normal,” Dillon Dam Brewery general manager George Blincoe said of the Christmas to New Year week. “I wish we had better snow, but I think people know we have more vertical than Nebraska or Kansas ski areas, so they’re here. And we’re glad they are.”

Copper Mountain, Keystone and Breckenridge planned to ring in 2012 with fireworks – weather permitting – and festivities Saturday night.