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Summer is as busy as it seems for businesses Print
Written by Seth Mensing   
Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Now to make the magic last …

True to form, July has been a blur of people and events, from Elk Avenue to the base area. If it hadn’t been, business owners would start to think something went wrong. But with parking spots so hard to come by between Sunday morning and Saturday night and hoards of out-of-town guests walking around in awe, the summer is turning out to be as big as it was billed to be.

 

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Betsy Heartfield, manager and co-owner of The Mountain Store in Crested Butte, says the summer started out just as she expected it would, with a busy Fourth of July holiday.
“It’s just been nuts,” she says. “Summer is as strong as it’s ever been. But I think it’s been more consistent throughout the week this year than it has in the past. We’re getting a lot of Coloradoans in addition to the regular visitors from Texas and Oklahoma. I think more people are getting out to explore their state.”
Like most of her neighbors on Elk Avenue, Heartfield is happy with the rapid pace of July. Next door at Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven, owner Ali Fuchs says, “It’s busy for sure. Everyone thinks it’s busier. But, for me, every day in July is busy. I think other people notice it because they’re out on the street more.”
Heartfield and Fuchs have both seen their sales numbers increase this summer, which is the metric every business owner uses to gauge the success of summer. “But if my shop’s not full of people in July, I’m doing something wrong,” Fuchs says. “Our numbers are up, so it’s been a great season for sure.”
Peak Sports owner Andy Eflin says his shop in the Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) base area has seen the same kind of activity, with kids lining up at the Adventure Park while their parents go shopping, and out-of-town riders renting bikes.
“We’re busy. There’s a lot of action up here on the mountain and the Adventure Park seems to be going off. The Bicycle Tour of Colorado was in and on their layover day they all charged up here and rented bikes. It was awesome,” Eflin says. “We were very busy that day. Opening weekend was a real bang this year and we were super-busy up here that weekend. By the time Crested Butte Bike Week came around we were busy up here again. So it’s been a good summer.”
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Crested Butte Mountain Resort is driving business in Mt. Crested Butte with new and improved base area amenities and mountain bike trails, and Eflin says he’s seen a lot of out-of-town riders coming to the valley just to see what’s happening on the mountain.
“We’re seeing people coming in from other areas saying, ‘We’re here to ride your bike park because we heard it’s cool,’” Eflin says. “So that’s definitely helping.”
CBMR’s free Live! from Mt. Crested Butte Wednesday evening music series is seeing bigger crowds this year, packing the base area weekly, even during a rainy Pato Banton show on July 17.
The free music and the rain are proving to be a boon to Todd Barnes’ business at The Avalanche, where the summer is as brief as it is intense, lasting the six weeks from the Fourth of July weekend through the middle of August.
But, Barnes says after he took over the restaurant almost five years ago he saw a “dramatic increase” in business with the opening of CBMR’s Adventure Park. He also sees a rush for dinner on Wednesday nights that’s new with the advent of the Live! music series. Since then, he says, business has leveled off and follows the predictable rhythm of the seasons.
“The summers are always pretty solid,” Barnes says. “Other than this summer’s lack of employees that everybody’s battling … it’s been good. But you can’t cram any more stuff into those six weeks—we’re about as busy as we can be. So in order for this business to grow, we have to see the season extended on one side or the other.”
Heartfield agrees that the only way to improve business in July is to extend that success into June and August, even September. The recent afternoon rain showers, she says, might help in that regard by extending the wildflower season this year.
Sue Wallace, director of the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, says she has seen an incredible number of people this summer, especially during the week of the festival, July 8-14. But so much traffic in such a short time takes its toll on the flora.
By offering events until August 17, Wallace hopes to extend the festival’s season as long as it can go. “We want to grow the festival in a way that doesn’t create more impact in that week, so this was a perfect example of stretching the season on either end. And if somebody comes in late August and we know there’s something still blooming, we’ll take them there.”
CBMR will also be running their lifts for mountain bikers and hikers through September. Eflin says that’s helping extend his season. As the first business open on the mountain, he says, he can expect to see customers from Memorial Day into September.
“They’ve got lifts running every weekend through September this year, so for us it goes until the end of September now,” he says. “It used to be the first of September.”
The pace of reservations at CBMR’s hotels is proving that people are spending more time and staying during an extended season at the resort, where room nights are up 16 percent over last summer, between June and September. CBMR public relations and communications manager Erica Reiter says July is on pace to see a 21 percent increase in room nights.
Lift ticket sales are up 19 percent over last summer, Reiter says, and tickets sold for the Adventure Park jumped 24 percent, while the amount of use the park is seeing has jumped 51 percent, in large part because of the new and popular BagJump.
“All in all it has been a great summer for us here at the resort. Our offerings and amenities continue to improve every summer and the numbers are showing that it’s a success,” Reiter says. “The Wednesday night Live! from Mt. Crested Butte concert series has seen a phenomenal turn out, biking is growing with visiting families, as well as downhill-focused riders and the BagJump has been a big hit. It is great to see the hustle and bustle, for sure.”
The Crested Butte Music Festival is another major force in the valley’s summer tourism scene, offering 46 events this year throughout July and into August. In the last three years, the festival’s ticket revenue has gone up 175 percent and the quality of the performances keeps going up as well.
Some of that increase can be attributed to the availability of a bigger venue, in the Big Mine Ice Arena, but more important is the ever-expanding group of world-class musicians who come to the festival every summer, resulting in four sold-out nights of the opera, a growing Bluegrass in Paradise festival and sold-out symphony performances throughout the summer.
Through programs like the Divine Family Young People’s Concert series and free dress rehearsals of festival performances, organizers are making the events more appealing to locals and people passing by on the street who might have never been to the festival.
“We’re starting to market and are seeing movement from Grand Junction and the Front Range,” music festival director of marketing and communications Susan Gellert says. “I had a great quote from a guy who had been here many times but never gone to the music festival and said he was so blown away, next year he would be coming back for the music festival.”
And that sums it up. People have discovered summer in the valley and they like it. In fact, they appear to like it so much that they are already planning on returning next year.

 
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