BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Mike and Pam Mathe have taken their two children skiing at Beaver Creek over Christmas break each of the past five years. It’s their one big vacation for the year, a luxurious re-spite from Mike’s traveling and the children’s classes.
No way are they going to let the economic downturn stop them this year. "We need this vacation; this is what we look forward to every year,” Pam Mathe said. "Realistically, it hasn’t been a toll on us business-wise as it has for a lot of people, but if I had to buckle up and save for this, I would.” The good news for the Mathes, and anyone else who wants to go skiing, is that the penny-pinching might not be so bad this year thanks to the creative measures ski resorts are taking to combat the slumping economy. Extra nights’ lodging, ski rental packages, cut-rate lift tickets, stay-and-ski deals, upgrades — all are part of the promotions resorts are using to lure people to the mountain. But there always will be a portion of the population that will be going to ski, no matter what. For the rest of us, skiing is a luxury, something easily cut from the budget when things get tough. Paying rent or skiing? There isn’t much debate. Ski resorts are aware of the competition for consumer money, and they’re doing everything they can to hold onto their share. "There’s all kinds of tactical responses the individual areas are going to make, lots of energy within the industry to kind of counter the reasons why people might not ski this year,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. "There’s a lot of people paying a lot of attention.” There’s plenty of reason. Hotel bookings in Vail are down significantly, and skiers who do show up are expected to spend less money per person.