High tax revenues point to strong summer across Grand County | SkyHiNews.com

High tax revenues point to strong summer across Grand County

Hank Shell
Hideaway Park during the Winter Park Jazz Festival in July wasn't the only place that saw crowds this past summer. Many areas of Grand County experienced a robust summer tourism season.
Byron Hetzler/bhetzler@skyhidailynews.com | Sky-Hi News

Summer’s end

Summer officially ends this weekend at Grand County’s two largest resorts. Both Winter Park Resort and Granby Ranch end their official mountain biking seasons on Sunday, Sept. 28.

Winter Park is scheduled to reopen for winter activities on Nov. 12, while Ski Granby Ranch is set to reopen on Dec. 11.

It was quite a summer for the high country.

Sales tax reports from July as well as anecdotal evidence suggest Grand County’s 2014 summer tourism season has been a strong rebound from years past.

The narrative aligns with numbers from resorts across the Rockies, which have reported a robust summer season.

DestiMetrics, a Denver-based company that tracks lodging occupancy and revenues for 19 mountain resorts, projected that the summer of 2014 would be a record breaker.

“Even with the wetter weather that we got in August, lodging was still busy and the village was still packed on weekends.”
Steve Hurlbert
Winter Park Resort spokesman

And indeed it has been.

Tax collections for July in Winter Park were the month’s highest in town history, according to the town’s July tax report.

The town’s sales, lodging and accommodation tax collections, a strong indicator of the tourism economy’s strength, increased by $41,000, or 15 percent, in July compared to last year.

Catherine Ross with the Winter Park-Fraser Chamber of Commerce said attendance for events like the Colorado Freeride Festival was also up.

“With our limited data collection, we do think that more people were here, and it helps that the economy turned around,” Ross said.

The uptick in visitors couldn’t come at a better time for East Grand, as a slew of new businesses have opened this summer, including the Vasquez Creek Inn in Winter Park and Holiday Inn & Suites in Fraser.

Winter Park Resort also had a busy summer, said Steve Hurlbert, communications director for the resort.

“Even with the wetter weather that we got in August, lodging was still busy and the village was still packed on weekends,” Hurlbert said. “Anecdotally, I would say it’s certainly comparable to last summer.”

Hurlbert attributed strong visitation to the multitude of activities and events at the resort.

“With there being a lot of activities here, I think people have just kind of grown accustomed to realize that there’s a lot to do and come out and experience,” Hurlbert said.

Winter Park wasn’t the sole beneficiary of strong summer tourism.

Fraser, Granby and Grand Lake also showed increases in July sales tax revenues from 2013.

Winter outlook

But can the momentum from summer carry into a strong winter season?

“It is still early in the winter booking season but these preliminary figures are very encouraging for resorts in the Rocky Mountain and Far West,” said Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, in the press release. “Excellent ‘snow equity’ from last season combined with continued positive economic news seem to be encouraging skiers and snowboarders to start planning their winter vacation a little earlier than we have seen in recent years.”

Hurlbert said predicting a strong winter from a strong summer was like comparing “apples to oranges,” but last year’s strong winter season could be harbinger of things to come.

Speaking about last year’s guests, Hurlbert added, “They remember how great last winter was.”

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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