VAIL — Burton moved the U.S. Open Snowboard Championships to Vail from Vermont, looking for a bigger venue and more exposure. The company got what it was looking for and is now looking to make the event bigger still.
Nick Sargent, of Burton’s marketing department, Tuesday told the Vail Town Council about some of those plans.
The first U.S. Open in Vail was a hit by any measure — the company estimates the event brought 91,000 visitors all together, filled the town’s lodging to 97 percent capacity and gave Vail Mountain one of its three best days in terms of skier numbers. The goal now, Sargent said, is to make the U.S. Open a week-long event.
That probably won’t happen next year, Sargent said. Still, Burton has some big plans for the 2014 event.
Since the U.S. Open is the first stop on the snowboarding calendar after the 2014 Winter Olympics, Burton plans to honor Olympic competitors in a March 5 ceremony at Solaris in Vail Village. Beyond that ceremony, Sargent said daily awards ceremonies will be held in Vail instead of on the mountain.
While the on-mountain competition remains on Golden Peak, with a lot of the pre- and post-race action in Vail Village, Sargent said more events are also planned for Lionshead.
The idea, Sargent said, is to get more town businesses and valley residents involved in the U.S. Open.
“We want this to become the community’s most favorite event,” Sargent said.
Of course, Burton wants broader exposure, too. Sargent said last year’s events had more than 1,200 combined TV coverage hours worldwide. For 2014, Fox Sports will pick up the U.S. Open and will add live coverage and coverage of the women’s halfpipe and slopestyle competitions.
While council members seemed to appreciate Sargent’s ideas, council member Greg Moffet worried the event might start becoming more quantity than quality. While Vail’s lodges were virtually full for last season’s event, Moffet said the town and mountain seem to function best at about 92 percent occupancy.
Vail Mountain marketing manager Davy Ratchford told council members that while the resort was virtually full, Vail Resorts’ research indicates that people were happy with their experience.
“We’re able to spread people out pretty well,” Ratchford said. “This mountain flows very well.”
Ratchford added that the idea behind expanding the U.S. Open is to bring more people to Vail during the weekdays of the event. That might include adding night or rail events, Sargent said.
But, Sargent added, “We want to make sure people are here for the event itself.”
Some of those people who come will be first-timers to the area. Ratchford said last season’s U.S. Open nearly doubled the number of snowboarders on Vail Mountain. And Sargent said some of those riders hasn’t been to Vail before.
A good number of those first-timers told Burton representatives they’d like to spend a little more time exploring the mountain, Sargent said.
The number of boarders and newcomers “gave us an opportunity to extend our brand in new ways,” Ratchford said.
That means extending Vail’s “brand” to more families.
“Young people influence where a family takes a vacation,” council member Susie Tjossem said. “We may have been under the radar for that until now.”