Spring break is typically a busy time for tourism at Colorado’s ski resorts. And despite the pandemic, many are anticipating an influx of visitors over the next two weeks.
“I think we’re going to have a busy spring break,” said Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula, who also owns the restaurant Downstairs at Eric’s.
Whether it’s the vaccine rollout, pandemic fatigue or some combination of the two, Mamula said it seems a lot of people have made vacation plans. Plus, this weekend’s snowstorm is expected to dump plenty of fresh powder. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings and watches for much of the central mountains.
“That always helps,” Mamula said.
Last spring, the state shut down all ski resorts due to the pandemic. Businesses in many mountain towns took a big hit to revenues when that happened.
But so far the outlook this spring is looking up. Next week, hotels in Breckenridge are between 80 and 90 percent booked, according to Mamula. The turnaround is good news for those smaller communities that rely heavily on winter tourism.
But more people could also mean more challenges. Most businesses still have capacity limits. And Breckenridge has had some problems enforcing mask mandates throughout the season, Mamula said.
“It has been difficult, and I’m just worried that spring break will just turn up the heat on that difficulty a little bit,” he said.
So the town hired security guards to help during spring break. They’re not going to write tickets. Instead, the hope is that they can talk to people who aren’t wearing masks before it becomes an issue that restaurant and retail workers have to deal with.
“It's really just more information in a nice way to let you know these are the rules in our town,” Mamula said. “You may come from a place where mask wearing is not an issue right now. But for us, it's still a deal.”
Ski resorts have also asked their staff to be vigilant when it comes to covering faces, especially now that some states no longer require masks.
“We want to make sure that guests come prepared not only with the reservation but with the full understanding that face coverings are still required throughout our entire operation,” said John Plack of Vail Resorts, which owns ski areas like Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge.
Many of Colorado’s resorts still have reservations available this month, although weekends are more limited. And they’ve been working to iron out the kinks from early in the season.
Plack is confident that Vail’s reservation system can handle the increased traffic during spring break, he said.
"Our reservation system is going to be key to making sure, like all season long, that we can keep safe levels of guests at the resort."