The mythical link between snowy Broncos games and ski vacations |

The mythical link between snowy Broncos games and ski vacations

A blown fourth-quarter lead, a demoralizing defeat in overtime, another nationally televised nightmare. This is how most Broncos fans will remember Sunday night’s 23-20 loss to Indianapolis.

In Summit County, a true enough bastion of Broncodom, the game hardly could have been more perfect. Why?

White stuff.

There is no better sight for local restaurateurs, hoteliers and resort operators than a snowy Invesco Field, televised for all to see, on a Sunday night in November.

It’s a three-hour advertisement for Colorado skiing, the most effective and inexpensive (free!) aspect of a seasonal marketing campaign.

This thinking goes back to the legendary snowstorm game of 1984 – a Monday nighter between the Broncos and Green Bay. The Mile High field was absolutely covered with snow, and it was dumping the whole time. It didn’t take long for phones in Summit County to start ringing. Friends called friends during the game, and when businesses opened the next day, vacationers from all over the country called Colorado.

It was a pleasant surprise and one not soon forgotten. Since that contest, local business owners have circled any late-season, prime-time game on the Broncos’ schedule and, in a ritual they know well, have prayed for snow.

But none of the handful of snowy Sunday and Monday nighters since has had quite the same effect as the 1984 game.

“That was the epic one,” said Kristin Rust of Colorado Ski Country USA. “It hasn’t snowed like that since.”

Sunday night’s storm wasn’t all that strong. The flakes were barely visible on TV, and the field didn’t get white until the second half. Perhaps for that reason, maybe for others, the reservation desks in Summit County experienced no Broncos-game bump on Monday.

“I would say it’s pretty much near normal volume,” said Breckenridge director of central reservations Bill Wishowski. “I was kind of hoping for more.”

Copper receptionist Alex Espinoza echoed that sentiment.

The ESPN broadcast team did its part, continually referencing the snow, showing clips of 1984, even mentioning the ski resorts. The field was indeed white by the time Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt plunged the final dagger into the heart of Broncos Nation with two improbable 50-plus-yard field goals.

So what was the difference?

Maybe people were watching the Wizard of Oz, which one network aired opposite the game. Maybe the broadcast didn’t have the same reach as the one in ’84 because of the much more extensive programming options now available and the fact that it was on cable, not ABC. Maybe Indianapolis is not a huge ski market.

More likely, though, the blizzard game of ’84 and the resultant reservation flood have become somewhat of a myth in Colorado skiing. Memories of that game, which started off as blurry as the thick snow that night at Mile High, have become more vague. And it’s an easy hope for local business owners to hang their hats on – the potential convergence of prime-time NFL football in Denver and snow.

Also, it’s the economy. People just aren’t making impulse buys on vacations these days. I think Sunday night’s game will have a good effect on local businesses … eventually.

The mental picture of that snowy field in Denver now owns space in America’s collective head. If reports of snow in the Rockies continue to filter through the country, they will trigger that memory, and the phones will ring.

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