A large crowd of people gathered at the Sun Valley Lodge Tuesday night for a Christmas Eve ice show. Hotels in the Wood River Valley are expected to be close to capacity this week.
Express photo by Willy Cook
With the holiday season coming to a climax, business owners in the Sun Valley resort area are expressing confidence about sales, despite an overall lack of snow for skiers and snowboarders.
Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said on Christmas Eve that the circulation of residents and visitors shopping in downtown Ketchum was encouraging, but he—like many locals and visitors—has been somewhat frustrated by the persistent sunny skies.
“It’s clear to me that we do very well when we have a lot of snow and vice versa,” Hall said. “We’re at capacity for pretty much all the holidays, but it’s filling in the gaps that is the problem. We need snow to make our economy.”
While it is unclear whether the lack of snowfall in central Idaho is adversely affecting visitor occupancy, lodging facilities in the valley have not been filled to capcity. According to an occupancy report from the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, the estimated occupancy for hotels in Sun Valley and Ketchum between Dec. 19 and 25 was 43 percent. The hotel occupancy rate in Hailey was 31 percent for the week. For hotels and condos in Ketchum and Sun Valley, occupancy was 47 percent. The numbers are predicted to be significantly higher in Ketchum and Sun Valley for the week ending Jan. 1.
Backwoods Mountain Sports owner Andy Munter said pre-Christmas sales were down from last year, but the numbers were still good. He said he believes the lack of snow is a factor.
“The decreased snowfall has definitely affected us, but we’ve seen it before and Christmas is still Christmas and people still need presents,” Munter said. “What I love to see is so many people taking to heart that ‘shop locally’ message. While backcountry skiing sales are down, skate skiing is really strong. People know that the skiing is good at Galena Lodge and on the Harriman Trail.”
“If we don’t get more snow in January, then it could be frustrating.”
Board Bin owner
Munter said that while the lack of snowfall has caused his snowsports product sales to take a hit, the void has been filled through increased purchases of other products.
“Fat tire bikes have sold particularly well due to the reduced snow and especially the lightweight carbon bikes,” he said. “That’s helped make up for some of the lack of ski-related sales.”
The lack of snow has actually brought some benefits for Atkinsons’ supermarket, according to co-owner Chip Atkinson. He said inclement weather can often create issues for delivery trucks coming into town, but that has not been an issue this year.
“The only difficulty we run into during the holidays is how the trucking will work,” Atkinson said. “The trucking has gone pretty well because of the lack of snowfall.”
He added that sometimes there are trendy items that become very popular and the store runs out of stock. However, no such issues have arisen this month, as he said he does not know of any significant items being sold out.
Meanwhile, Toy Store owner Carol Knight said business has been excellent over the holiday season. She said she believes customers from out of town are having much more fun shopping in Ketchum than they would anywhere else.
“It really seems like everyone who’s doing their holiday shopping is having a great time,” she said.
She said she wished she had bought more remote-controlled drones because they sold out so quickly, but is nevertheless pleased with how business is going over the holidays.
Jim Slanetz, owner of the Board Bin in Ketchum, said his business got off to a slow start initially in December but has since picked up steadily. He said December is a critical month for the Board Bin, because the shop tends to make 25 percent of its sales then.
Slanetz said he doesn’t think the lack of snowfall is a problem in December, but could prove to be a major issue in attracting visitors to the Wood River Valley if it continues into January.
“People book their trips here for Christmas several months in advance, and they know they’ll be here regardless of what the snowfall is,” Slanetz said. “In January, the customers can be much more fickle, because then they can make cheaper bookings on much shorter notice, and then they can decide where they want to visit based on the snowfall. If we don’t get more snow in January, then it could be frustrating.”
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