International visits up 23% for Vail |

International visits up 23% for Vail

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” Sandra Buettner of Frankfurt, Germany said the weak dollar didn’t bring her to Colorado.

“I don’t think it influenced us to come here. It influenced us to shop a lot,” said Buettner, who was taking a 10-day ski vacation to the Colorado mountains with three other Germans.

This year, Vail and Beaver Creek are seeing a lot of foreign visitors ” from the usual hot spots of the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico, and even from unusual places like Africa, Russia, Israel and the Netherlands.

The weak U.S. dollar, compared to other currencies has made places like Vail a popular ski destination for international visitors this year.

International visitors are up 23 percent this year in terms of skier days across Vail Resorts’ five mountains, said Chris Jarnot, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

“Absolutely, the weak dollar, that’s bringing people here,” Jarnot said. “In my 19 seasons in marketing, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The international visitors are valuable because they stay here for a long time and spend a lot of money, Jarnot said.

“They tend to stay longer, they tend to spend more, participate in our offerings like ski school and (restaurants) to a much greater extent,” Jarnot said.

Vail Resorts is also noticing that a lot of Russians are coming to its resorts this year, especially to Vail and Beaver Creek, booking rooms at high-end hotels like the Arrabelle at Vail Square, the Ritz-Carlton and the Park Hyatt, said ski company spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga.

“There is this whole new echelon of an extremely wealthy class,” Ladyga said.

A recent article in the United Kingdom’s Standard newspaper cited a study that showed that, for Britons, a ski trip to the U.S. is even cheaper than a ski trip to Europe.

“A trip to the Rocky Mountains of Vail, Colorado, costs 3832 pounds ” cheaper than Meribel, Courchevel and Val d’Isere,” the paper reported. The costs were based on flights, accommodations and ski passes for a family of four on a six-day trip.

The increased international interest has been reflected in airline schedules, too.

United recently added another daily nonstop flight to Denver from London, and so did a low-cost British carrier called Zoom.

Other businesses are noticing the influx of foreigners, too.

“I think it’s the euro,” said Tom Ludwig, an owner of Montauk Seafood Grill in Lionshead. “We’re getting a ton more Europeans here.”

Matt Morgan of Sweet Basil restaurant also said there seem to be more foreigners eating there.

“There does seem to be a larger contingent,” he said. “Especially some British people, some Australians perhaps as well. … Thanks for the weak dollar, eh?”

And international visitors seem to be interested in real estate here, too.

About 13 percent of people who express interest in buying at the Four Seasons Residence Club are foreign, said Jeff Meier, senior director of sales and marketing.

“Just recently, we’ve seen that Canadian buyers are starting to raise their hands,” Meier said. “There definitely has not been a decline of international buyers in Vail.”

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