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Lodges alter cancellation guidelines

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Many Aspen lodges are cautiously changing their cancellation policies after Vail Resorts announced it would give customers full refunds on trips canceled before June 1.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, is encouraging local lodges to consider making similar changes in response.

“People are surprised, because this is a very bold move,” Tomcich said. “Quite a few properties have already relaxed their policies – some from 30 days [advance notice] to 14, and some from 21 days to seven.”

Vail Resorts Lodging Co., which owns many lodges in Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge, along with all of the lodging at the Keystone resort, dropped cancellation fees in a move announced last week. Colorado RockResorts, which manages 10 luxury resort hotels in seven states, has also dropped the fees.

The decision was a response to “uncertain times” in which travelers are concerned about losing a large deposit on a vacation if they choose to cancel at the last minute, Vail officials said.

Aspen’s Snowflake Inn has decided to give travelers a full refund for the rest of the ski season if they decide to cancel. Assistant General Manager David Slack said it could make it easier for vacationers to make reservations in the coming weeks, although there is some risk.

“It could cost you money because if people cancel at the last minute, you can’t fill the rooms,” he said.

Tomcich agreed and said the difficulty of filling rooms at the last minute is why the fees are there in the first place.

“I think most people recognize that in order to book a ski vacation, you’re required to make a commitment,” Tomcich said. “It’s always been that way, particularly as the ability to sell off units that get canceled at the last minute [diminishes]. That’s why it’s often so stringent.”

An employee at the St. Moritz, who declined to give her name, said the lodge is considering a more lenient cancellation policy – a full refund up to seven days before arrival. A decision could be made early this week.

“Right now, we have everything to lose until March 10,” she said, adding until then, 60 percent of their regular rooms and 90 percent of their rooms with kitchenettes are booked. The employee said groups that have booked stays at the St. Moritz are from Colorado, so she wouldn’t expect them to cancel at the last minute.

At the Hotel Aspen, general manager Mary Manning said she never considered completely dumping the cancellation fees. But the hotel has made the policy more lenient, with refunds for canceling 14 days instead of 30 days before traveling

“Most people who come in here are flying, and they need to get their flights coordinated at least two weeks out,” she said.

Eric Calderon, Little Nell general manager, said his hotel will be offering “dramatically reduced” rates for April, especially directed toward Front Range travelers.

Tomcich said Vail Resorts took a significant risk in dumping cancellation fees. He said people who have already booked vacations may now cancel at no charge and try to find better last-minute deals elsewhere.

“Whether or not this turns out to be a brilliant move, we don’t know. We’ll have to give it some time,” he said.

Vail Resorts is also suspending cancellation fees on advance lift ticket purchases at the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly, Calif., ski resorts for the rest of the ski season.

Tomcich said the Aspen Skiing Co. has always been very flexible about lift ticket refunds, even when a ticket is bought here at a counter and then returned.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]


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