Photo by Scott Cramer
Bookings have slowed at resorts across the country, resulting in some unheard-of deals this holiday season. Christmas week and President's Day week are the busiest times of the season. These holidays are usually a time of high prices, full hotels, and mandatory 3, 4, or 5 night stays throughout ski country. Not so much in these times of woe and won't. Vail Resorts
on Tuesday saying advanced bookings, the five-resort chain’s bread-and-butter, are down some 23-percent from last year, and resorts around the country are courting visitors with relaxed minimum stay requirements and perks like free lift tickets, spa vouchers, and free upgrades to nicer rooms.
While industry pundits will claim that the ski industry is more resilient that the economy at large—skiers are skiers, afterall, and will head to the mountains when snow comes—there’s more at work here than a recession. Several indicators show that the industry was poised for one of the biggest seasons ever before the Wall Street crash—season pass sales were up some 29 percent over the previous year, and the Snowsports Industry of America trade group reported that equipment sales rose 9 percent from August to September, spurred by pre-season discount sales. All of that can be linked to one thing—snow. Last year, almost every region of the country reported a good season, and resorts around the country invested heavily into capital improvements—new lifts, new hotels, new base areas. With the economy turning sour, resorts need skier visits like never before. “It’s a skier’s market right now,” says Dan Sherman of
, a wholesaler of hotel rooms and ski packages. “Discounts of thirty percent are the norm right now. Some hotels are cutting rates as much as 50 percent.”
to find a list of current deals going on at resorts around the country.
We’ll update the list regularly throughout the season. And take this advice when planning a trip to the mountains:
: While web research is essential to find the best room rates, calling the hotel or booking agency is key, as well, especially if you’re looking to change the minimum stay requirement or lobby for other perks. Booking through a third party, like
, can help as well, as their agents will help find the best deal for your budget.
: More and more resorts are offering discount cards, like Killington, Vermont’s Express Card, which costs $24 and saves your $10 to $20 on a lift ticket. It’s linked directly to your credit card, no trip to the ticket office needed, and spokesman Tom Horrocks says sales are up 200 percent from last year. “We’ve found that a lot of people facing job cuts or other economic uncertainty aren’t willing to pay $1,000 for a season pass,” he says. “They’re using this as an alternative.”
Be Patient, Then Don’t
: Deals fluctuate more than the Dow Jones on the eve of Federal Rate cut, and booking agents are going crazy adjusting websites to new offers. That said, most of the best deals don’t come last minute. Browse websites to find deals, but once you get one, pounce. Most deals have “book by” dates and will evaporate as the holiday week gets near.