Rooms and Flights Still Available For Holidays


Denver, CO, Dec. 6, 2001 (press release)--Skier bookings picked up considerably after a series of major storms swept through the West over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the Ski Tour Operators Association (SKITOPS), the trade group. Nonetheless, tour operators are still sitting on blocks of unbooked rooms and airline seats for the traditionally overbooked Christmas period.

``Snowfall during Thanksgiving weekend really jumpstarted our sales, which for the last week of November were 52 percent higher than for the previous week,'' says Bruce Rosard, president of Moguls Mountain Travel in Boulder, Colo.

It's rare to see a surplus of lodging this close to the holidays, Rosard adds. ``If people can be flexible with their flights, they will find space available, even at resorts such as Whistler, Vail, and Aspen. Also, resorts that historically required seven-night stays during the holiday period are now accepting five-, four- and even three-night stays.''

And while it's not too late to grab a quick getaway to the mountains for the holidays, it's also not too early to book some of the best deals in years during the normally slow period of January. ``This is shaping up to be a bigger-than-usual ski travel month, because savvy skiers are picking up on extra discounts that lodges are offering this year,'' says SKITOPS President David Tanner, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Vacations in Glenwood Springs, Colo. ``Our call volume and e-mail requests are at record levels.''

For example, skiers can book a three-night stay in Breckenridge over Christmas for as little as $869 per person, quad occupancy, including air and lodging. Or a four-night package at Big Sky that includes lodging at the new Holiday Inn Express/Mountain Inn and three days of skiing for at little as $474 per person, double occupancy.

Resorts and skiers have plenty to be thankful for. In Utah, where ski areas were bone-dry prior to the holiday, storms dropped 100 inches of snow in 100 hours at Snowbird, breaking the resort's record for November. Near-record snow fell in parts of Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Northwest, and abundant coverage was reported along the Rocky Mountains from Montana to southern Colorado.

One of the advantages of booking a vacation through a tour operator is that consumers can get discounted bulk-rate airfares, which usually don't have the advance purchase restrictions or stayover requirements of published fares. Bulk fares are an even better deal this season because United, a major ski country airline, has discontinued its fuel surcharge, thereby saving passengers about $40 on a round-trip ticket.

Although the sudden and sustained snowfall was the major catalyst in reviving ski vacation bookings, another factor may be the public's perception that the mountains are a safe haven from international tensions. A study just completed by SnowSports Industries America (SIA) showed that 57 percent of respondents would feel ``very safe'' at a mountain resort this winter. By contrast, only 37 percent said they felt secure in cities. The study also indicated that people planned to ski and snowboard a lot more this season.

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