Holiday ski update

Fresh corduroy has been a familiar sight this ski season. (Photo courtesy of Telski) 

Bluebird skies, mild temperatures, solid snowpack and a sleeper powder day gave skiers reason to smile and helped Telluride Ski Resort end 2019 on a festive note. With Christmas in the middle of the week, some guests stayed a little longer, too.

The snow conditions and calendar days made this holiday season particularly strong, according to Telski CEO Bill Jensen.

“Christmas on a Wednesday maximizes the number of days in the holiday period,” Jensen said in an interview with the Daily Planet. “It was similar to last year, and last year was a very good holiday period.”

When Christmas falls on a Wednesday, guests tend to come for two to three more days during the two-week holiday period, which translates to a few hundred more riders on the mountain per day, he added.

For those who came for the snow, there tended to be five to six minute lift lines on chairs 4 and 10, while lifts that lead to steeper terrain, such as Chair 14, were fairly empty the whole week.

“It’s a reflection of the guests. They’re 4 and 10 skiers,” Jensen explained. “We’re fortunate at Telluride that we have a great separation of terrain for novice, intermediate and advanced.”

As of Dec. 31, the local snowpack on the mountain was similar to last year’s snowfall, as Telski reported four more inches at the end of 2019 than at the end of 2018.

“For me, that’s very comparable snowfall,” Jensen said.

This year, good weather meant that guests went out more often and for longer. There was only one big snowstorm during the holiday period and only one day with very cold temperatures. People still rode during the cold snap, but started later, Jensen noted.

With heavy snow piling up at the end of November, people were ready to commit to ski trips.

“Town was pretty sold out. That’s what happens once everybody knew there was snow,” Jensen said.

Over the holiday period, visitors stayed an average of five nights. Typical stay length has been consistent for the past several years, according to Micheal Martelon, Telluride Tourism Board CEO and president.

Hotel and rental properties around Telluride were quite full by Christmas Eve, though check-in numbers peaked on Dec. 27. While Christmas is always popular, there were more guests in town on New Year’s Even than on Christmas Eve. This has been consistent for occupancy numbers over the past four to five years, according to Martelon.

There was also more space in Telluride for visitors to rent properties because fewer homeowners were in town. During the holidays, “owner stays” were down by 10 percent from Dec. 21 to Saturday, according to Martelon.

 An “owner stay” simply means that the homeowner is occupying their house themselves. With fewer homeowners around town, there are more places for destination visitors to rent on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. In general, accommodation rates in town were from 3 to 6 percent higher this year.

The relatively new Denver jet service into and from town helped bring up visitor numbers this year as well. Almost all the flights to Telluride on Denver Air Connection were full over the holidays, Telluride Regional Airport Manager Kenny Maenpa said.

“Our accessibility is the best it’s ever been,” Martelon added.

High visitor numbers help drive the local economy, he explained, as the average guest spending was up 9 percent this holiday season.

“The visitors really carry the load in December,” Martelon noted. “We started the year strong; we ended the year strong, and we started the new decade strong. And that’s a pretty nice thing to be able to say.”

Jensen expressed similar thoughts.

“We had the blessings of the calendar and good snow. It was perfect,” he said. “Now I can worry about next year.”