Eagle County businesses gear up for Championships
January 27, 2015
EAGLE COUNTY — Local businesses are preparing for an unusual February as the FIS Alpine World Ski Champions arrive, bringing thousands of ski teams and fans from around the world.
Many stores, restaurants and lodges say they expect it to be a very busy time, although many say exactly what kind of business the Championships will bring is anybody's guess.
"I think we'll be crazy busy. We're just going to hold on for the ride," said Tara Picklo, co-owner of Yeti's Grind coffee shop in Solaris Plaza, where medal ceremonies and free concerts will be held nearly every night of the Championships. "It'll be nice because February is usually a slower month for us."
With awards and concerts in the evening, Yeti's will be open for extended hours until 9 p.m. Picklo said that other business neighbors in the Solaris Plaza have said they aren't sure how busy they will be.
"Lots of people around us aren't sure how it will affect them, since events have a different effect on retail," she said. "That said, (race organizers) have gone out the way to set up televisions, a stage and concerts in the plaza. I think it's intended to draw crowds to Vail."
For other businesses, the attention from the World Championships is having some unintended side effects. Mike Brumbaugh, of Venture Sports, said he actually expects the Championships to be a slow time for the ski shop.
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"The people who come because of the Championships are pretty self-sufficient in terms of equipment. Other people think that because the Championships are going on, it's going to be so crowded that they shouldn't come," he said. "We're trying to get the word out that that's not the case at all, that they'll still be able to ski most of Beaver Creek and Vail. Some people don't believe me, but we're confident enough that I've been promising to comp people's ski rentals if they end up coming out and don't have a good time."
Other businesses plan to stay busy by being directly involved with the World Championships, including some hotels and restaurants that are hosting teams and other race-related groups. Some restaurants will be closed to the public entirely, such as Matsuhisa Vail, which will be closed from Feb. 3 to 14 for a private party.
Other restaurants will have limited seating or ticketed events, including the Swiss Chalet, which will be the official house (or celebration headquarters) for the Switzerland team, and Bully Ranch, which will be transformed into the German House.
The Swiss Chalet will have special hours, with a portion of the seats reserved for the Swiss Ski Team. Other diners can reserve the remaining seats in the restaurant based on availability.
Meanwhile, Bully Ranch in the Sonnenalp will have a German-inspired menu during the Championships. The restaurant will sell tickets for diners to hang out at the German House and enjoy a three-course meal.
"It's a cool opportunity for people to be able to hang out around the teams for the entirety of the two weeks," said Kelly Paton, marketing manager for the Sonnenalp. "It's an opportunity that people probably wouldn't have if the Championships were in Europe instead of the United States."
John Dawsey, director of sales and marketing for Colorado Mountain Express, said he expects the transportation company to be extremely busy.
CME is the official airport ground transportation for the Championships, meaning it will be shuttling race teams and groups to and from Vail. Dawsey also expects that the company might get some business from Front Range fans who will book the shuttles from Denver to Vail.
"We're bullish in our expectations," he said. "We certainly expect to be very busy, and because we have a unique niche, I think we'll capture some of the Denver demographic, too."
Capturing the crowds
Other businesses are timing events and promotions for the beginning of February that aren't necessarily racing-related. However, the idea is to capture the crowds that are expected to be in town for the races.
The Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon is holding several events during the time of the Championships, including the Maya official tequila launch on Feb. 9 and a women's ski-apparel fashion show on Feb. 4.
Rounding out the events is an appearance by Mort the Moose, from the local children's book "Eli and Mort's Epic Adventures, Beaver Creek." The events are free and open to the public.
"The World Championships are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the many amazing things going on here in the Vail Valley, which is why we created several unique experiences that are open to both our guests and the public, including events focused on food, fashion and families," said Kristen Pryor, The Westin's director of sales and marketing.
Artist and jewelry maker Michelle Marocco timed her trunk show at Vail's Kemo Sabe to coincide with the Championships. She wanted to introduce her items to new crowds and even designed some ski-racing themed jewelry to target the World Championships audience.
"I think people want to have something to take away from the experience," she said. "They want to remind themselves of that specific feeling they had here, and a snowflake necklace or another special piece is better than a baseball hat or keychain."
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
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