Winter rental market shaping up |

Winter rental market shaping up

With the holiday season here, and skiers dotting the slopes, Park City’s winter vacation rental market is beginning to take shape. While it’s still early, indications so far point toward a strong season.

Bill Malone, president of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said lodging owners throughout town have seen advance bookings come in at an optimistic pace.

"We’re looking pretty good," Malone said. "When we look out over the course of the season as to what’s currently on the books, compared to where we were last year, we’re tracking ahead almost every week except one. Everybody is pretty optimistic as to where we stand now versus where we stood last year at this time."

While the rising tide is lifting the town’s nightly rentals, it is difficult to pinpoint the reason behind the increase in bookings. Malone speculated that it could be partially due to Vail Resort’s purchase of Park City Mountain Resort, which has garnered headlines throughout the skiing world. The fact Park City had a more snow last year than some surrounding areas also could be a factor.

"There’s always a bit of snow hangover from the previous year," he said. "While we didn’t have a spectacular year, we had a pretty darn good year in terms of snowfall compared to the Lake Tahoe area. There could be some residual from people remembering that and booking with us instead of a trip to Lake Tahoe. But there are all kinds of things that can impact it."

Rob Slettom, president of Identity Properties, a local lodging and vacation service, said he has seen a double-digit bump in advanced bookings from last year. He speculated that the rise could be due to increased national awareness of Park City, as recent marketing efforts have begun to pay off.

"I just think over the past number of years there’s been a lot more marketing dollars spent in Park City, through resorts, the Chamber/Bureau and the state of Utah tourism office," he said.

While both Malone and Slettom say Vail’s increased presence in town has brought attention to the city, there still may be those who are unaware of PCMR’s new ownership.

Jim Bizily, founder of Park City Luxury Vacation & Ski Properties, said he has talked to customers who are under the impression PCMR is closed this winter. Years-long litigation between PCMR’s former owner, Powdr Corp, and its landlord, Talisker Land Holdings LLC, put PCMR’s status this winter in jeopardy, but that was resolved in September when Vail’s purchase was announced.

Though Bizily has seen a six-percent increase in bookings, he said that number might have been even higher without the confusion about PCMR.

"I almost think it’s going to take the rankings from national publications rating the local resorts again next year for people to realize PCMR is still here," he said.

Malone said he had not heard of similar instances of customer confusion.

"It’s hard to imagine that, with the volume of media attention that the purchase has generated," he said. "But you never know. There are people who read the news once a year."

While the outlook is mostly positive, there is one weekend when reservations are still slow. Malone said bookings during Martin Luther King, Jr., Day weekend are lagging because people are accustomed to the Sundance Film Festival often taking place during that time. However, the festival’s new contract with the city, signed last year, delays the event until after the holiday weekend.

Malone is hopeful the city’s marketing efforts — it has purchased television advertisements in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore — can turn the holiday into another big weekend.

"We look at that as a huge opportunity to make Martin Luther King weekend look like President’s Day weekend," he said. "We’ve probably sufficiently trained our customers that we were not in play for a ski vacation during that time, just because some years it was overlapped by the film festival."

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