Cashing in downslope: Telluride races jolt ski-season economy

Brett Sorrentino, the head ski/snowboard tech at Gene Taylors Sporting Goods store, tunes a ski in the ski shop in the store as sparks fly from the ski on the grinder.

The economic ripples from the 2009 Snowboardcross World Cup races this weekend at Telluride aren’t confined to businesses lining the narrow San Miguel River valley.

As businesses in Telluride count the reasons they are happy to host nearly 400 world-class athletes, their extensive retinues and all the accompanying media attention, those golden feelings extend as far as Grand Junction.

“I think it’s just great to have something like these races relatively close,” said Duke Taylor of Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods, speaking from a busy snowboard shop on the building’s second floor. “To have something international and certainly world class within two hours or so of here is huge. And I think it does certainly affect our business, with all the skiers and riders in this town.”

This preholiday economic surge comes at what usually is a slow time for ski resorts. It’s too early for Christmas holiday travelers, and most locals have gotten their early season yips taken care of and are in the “is it a powder day?” mode.

It’s what Mike Hess, director of sales and marketing for The Peaks Resort in Telluride’s Mountain Village, normally considers “the lull before the storm.”

“Typically, this is a very slow time for us, right before the Christmas holiday,” Hess said. “But right now there are 319 people from all over the world staying here, we are 100 percent full, and we’re digging up rooms wherever we can.”

Plus, hosting the 60 or so media members from around the world gives The Peaks and Telluride advertising coverage that no amount of money could buy.

“This really kick-starts us for the whole season,” Hess said. “In a year which people might not look at as totally positive for the economy, the races are going to get us going through the whole season.”

In addition, Hess said, thanks to the races the hotel has more than 200 employees working full time, adding another luster to the holidays.

A short gondola ride away in downtown Telluride, chef and restaurateur Mark Reggiannini of La Marmotte had just finished an employee meeting.

“I was just telling my staff that this week usually is the slowest time of the year, that not too many people travel right before Christmas,” Reggiannini said with a laugh. “But I was just checking our reservations for the weekend, and I’ve definitely noticed an increase in business. We just have a bunch more reservations than we did last year at this time, so it’s nice to have something like (the World Cup) to get people in here.”

Across town, it seems there’s always someone pushing open the doors at Telluride Slopestyle, the town’s only independently owned snowboard-centric shop.

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in traffic around town and through the shop,” said Shane Ritter,

Slopestyle’s assistant general manager. “We’re doing some good business with the World Cup, and with Christmas following closely on the heels of the World Cup, we think it’s going to get things going for the rest of the season.”

But it’s not just tourists and foreign athletes dropping some holiday jingle this week in Telluride. There also is a contingent from western Colorado making an early trip to town.

“Looking at our reservation book, I noticed there are several second-home owners heading this way this weekend,” Reggiannini said. “Maybe the World Cup brought them into town early this year.”

Duke Taylor could vouch for that.

“I was just talking to one guy who has a second home up there, and he’s going up,” Taylor said. “He’s a skier, but he’s excited about seeing the World Cup riders.”

Races this weekend include a Snowboardcross qualifier Friday, Snowboardcross finals Saturday and the team Snowboardcross competition Sunday. A complete schedule is available at http://www.telluride

Of course, even World Cup races can be trumped by Mother Nature, and The Peaks’ Mike Hess reminded a caller that nothing happens without snow.

And Telluride has received more than two-and-a-half feet of fresh snow this week.

“The great new snow has been fabulous. I’ve even had some friends say they’ve never seen so much snow in Junction,” Hess said. “I’ve been in marketing long enough to know you can’t buy this type of media, and
you can’t make it snow.

“The stars are lined up for us right now.”


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