Colorado is having unusually warm weather during this year’s winter season. While city dwellers in Denver may be enjoying the occasional 60+ degree days that have been peppered throughout the past several months, this isn’t the best news for mountain-goers—or for the businesses that cater to them. Just what can you do when it’s warm in the Rockies?
Impact of Warm Weather
As Colorado’s largest ski area and a number-one destination for tourists, Vail Mountain, in particular, has felt the strong impact of such atypical weather patterns making it warm in the Rockies. Originally scheduled for November 17, opening day for Vail this year was delayed nearly a week, until a welcome snowstorm allowed the resort to open the slopes on November 22, a day before Thanksgiving. Overall, skier visits to Vail Resorts—which owns Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and several other mountains—were down nearly 11 percent from last year as of January 7, due to the area’s lowest recorded level of snowfall in more than 30 years.
This decrease in turnout has had a direct negative effect not only on resorts but also on the many businesses in and around Vail that rely on skier and snowboarder tourism to thrive. The American Ski Exchange, a family-owned and operated rental shop located in the heart of downtown Vail, is just one of many small businesses that have experienced lackluster sales in the wake of the warm 2017-2018 season.
For Vail Resorts, such losses can be offset by season pass revenues, as pass prices are fixed and sales end months before the start of the season. However, since pass-holders typically own their own equipment, rental shops are at the mercy of the elements and rely on snowy weather to bring in visitors and tourists who are seeking the convenience of gear rentals.
Although Colorado’s Front Range has seen a decent amount of snow since January, experts are still concerned that recent warm-weather patterns will continue. 2017 was the third warmest year on record for both the US and the state of Colorado, and climatologists have little reason to believe that this trend will change anytime soon.
Alternative Activities in Colorado High Country
The good news is there are plenty of alternative activities to participate in throughout Vail that are not snow-dependent—and much cheaper than the price of a lift ticket! The mountains in and around Vail boast a variety of beautiful trails for both the beginner and seasoned hiker, giving you plenty to do when it’s warm in the Rockies and there’s no snow in Vail.
With the recent debut of Epic Discovery comes new opportunities for immersive mountain experiences during the summer months. Take a scenic ride on the Eagle Bahn gondola, with access to a range of offerings from zip-lines to adventure courses to the Forest Flyer mountain roller coaster.
Catch a show at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater, or take a stroll through the nearby Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, where admission is free 365 days a year. If you find yourself in the heart of downtown Vail, there’s no shortage of restaurants and pubs to help you wind down after a day in the mountains.
Despite this year’s less-than-ideal ski conditions, there are still a variety of reasons why you might find yourself in Vail territory. With 300 sunny days a year and a multitude of outdoor activities for all ages, there’s never a shortage of things to do in one of Colorado’s most coveted mountain towns.
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