• Resorts get nice lift from MLK holiday
    By Bruce Edwards
    STAFF WRITER | January 23,2013
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    Jay Peak Photo

    A skier hits a powder stash at Jay Peak over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
    Vermont’s ski areas followed the Christmas and New Year’s week with another solid holiday.

    Ski areas reported a “very strong” Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, said Vermont Ski Areas President Parker Riehle.

    “Saturday was by far the strongest day of the three-day weekend for resorts all across the state given the ideal temps and snow conditions at the mountains coupled with the incredibly strong momentum from the Christmas/New Year’s holiday,” Riehle said in an email. “Visits and revenue figures far exceeded last year’s numbers with resorts reporting upwards of a 50 percent increase over the previous year.”

    Jay Peak’s spokesman went even further. “It was the best three-day MLK holiday we’ve ever had,” Toland said.

    He said skier visits, not including season pass holders, were up 42 percent over last year.

    The icing on the cake, Toland said, was 17 inches of snow that blanketed the resort just before the weekend.

    In terms of a place to stay, he said “there wasn’t a room to be had on the hill.”

    Over the last five years, the resort has undergone a multimillion-dollar expansion. Toland said lodging capacity at the resort has increased from 400 visitors to 3,000 visitors.

    Okemo Mountain Resort “had a solid three days” with skier visit numbers on target with projections and lodging at its hotel and condos sold out for the holiday, Okemo’s vice president and general manager, Bruce Schmidt, said in an email. The MLK holiday weekend was an improvement over last year for Mount Snow Resort in West Dover with lodging also sold out over the three days.

    With the forecast of colder weather on Monday, business tailed off a bit, but Mount Snow spokesman David Meeker said overall, “It was a very successful holiday weekend.”

    Overall business at Killington Resort was up an average of 18 percent across the board (skier visits, lodging, retail, etc.) over the weekend compared with last year, said Killington spokeswoman Sarah Thorson.

    “Early last week we were able to recover from the meltdown, and we had the (snow) guns going around the clock from Tuesday on to resurface our trails and provide a real quality product,” Thorson said.

    According to Riehle, Sugarbush Resort in Warren reported that Saturday was the ski area’s third best day in its history.

    High winds Sunday did affect lift operations at some resorts.

    Okemo was forced to slow down its lift operations, creating long lines.

    Mount Snow had to shut down some lifts but was able to maintain top-to-bottom skiing all day.

    By midday Sunday, Jay Peak was forced to close down its upper mountain lifts. The lower mountain lifts remained in operation.

    Although lift operations were curtailed, Jay Peak visitors were afforded other amusement options.

    Toland said that when the upper mountain lifts shut down there was a corresponding increase in visitors to the indoor water park. Visitors were also entertained over the weekend at the resort’s indoor ice skating rink with the Green Mountain Avalanche high school hockey tournament.

    The trend in the tourism industry in recent years is for visitors to delay their bookings until closer to the holiday or their vacation dates, often making their reservations online. At Okemo, the resort also reported an increase in online sales of lift tickets.

    “Both Thursday and Friday nights (we) saw a large level of business for the purchase of print-at-home tickets on our website,” Schmidt said. “We continue to be surprised at how this way of buying tickets is increasing.”

    Up next is Presidents Week in February, considered the final and often the biggest ski holiday of the season.

    bruce.edwards @rutlandherald.com
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