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Year-Round Resorts

Key To Success For Ski Destinations Is Broadening Appeal To Cover All Seasons

Friday, October 06, 2017
Dennis Nessler
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As the calendar moves toward October the ski season is fast approaching and for many traditional ski destinations their financial success or failure in a given year often lies in the ‘offseason,’ a seven- to eight-month period when the mountains are shut down and the scores of skiers go home. At least one long-time resort, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Conference Center in Stowe, VT, has figured out that the key is not to have an ‘offseason’ at all.

In recognition of that fact, the family-owned resort has continued to expand over the course of its 50-plus year history to offer a widening array of amenities and services to guests.
According to Scot Baraw, vp, sales and part of the second generation of family ownership, despite the area’s national reputation as one of the most popular ski destinations in the Northeast there are plenty of other attractions to generate business.

“Summer and fall are actually our most peak times. People love the climate here in the summer and, of course, the colors in the fall,” he said. Baraw further added that July through October actually represent the resort’s highest occupancy months. Of course, he added it goes without saying that “winter holidays and weekends are very busy for skiing and family time.”

The Baraw family has taken the original Stoweflake from a modest two-story, 20-room Inn in 1963 to a full-scale resort that includes 120 upscale guestrooms and suites, a dedicated spa, conference facilities, fitness center and year-round outdoor pool as well as two venues for dining.

The expansion began in 1970 when the family purchased the neighboring motel, The Nordic Motor Inn, and subsequently added tennis courts and a chip and pitch golf course. In 1984 the property was renovated and upgraded to include deluxe guestrooms. Some 15 years later, the East Wing was constructed replacing the original building, and 40 luxury rooms and suites were added, as well as a 4,500 square-foot conference center and ballroom. In addition, the hotel was renamed the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa. In 2003, the hotel opened its 50,000 square-foot spa with facilities that feature private men’s and women’s Sanctuary Lounges and 30 treatment rooms. The property also added 41 new luxury guest rooms.

Meanwhile, the Conference Center at Stoweflake is Vermont’s only International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) approved facility and the largest resort-based conference center in Vermont with 22,000 square feet of total meeting space that can accommodate groups as large as 400. Baraw estimated the mix of business for the hotel is roughly 50 percent business and 50 percent leisure, the latter of which is helped by a robust wedding business.

Nevertheless, the hotel continues to look for ways to generate additional business. Baraw mentioned that the hotel specifically “has been pushing our great location.” As an example, the hotel markets Stoweflake as being “the heart of Stowe” with some 35 shops, bars, restaurants, breweries, golf, bowling, a walking path, hiking and biking all within a 1/4 mile. There are a host of fall activities, such as the annual Balloon Festival. The hotel also works cooperatively with the Mountain Road marketplace, which is an association of the businesses around the hotel.

Baraw acknowledged that being fully entrenched in the town for many years is part and parcel of the hotel’s ongoing success. “I think our reputation in the community is excellent. I feel we are known as being very involved in the community, long-time owners that are vested in what we are doing and hardworking folk who care deeply about their business,” he said.

In recent months and years, many independent hotels throughout the country have opted to become affiliated with “soft brands” or “collections” as a means of increasing their customer base and tapping into loyalty programs. With such a storied history, Baraw was asked if the hotel’s ownership and management—-which is led by president and CEO Chuck Baraw Sr.-—had considered such a strategy.

“As smart business owners of course we have looked at these options. We have not yet found a partnership we feel could fully benefit us and a partner. Sometimes in getting that additional business or marketing power it costs you more to do so. We are open to a partnership of some sort but happy with our independence and are very passionate owners,” he said.

Baraw did acknowledge the Internet has helped independents immensely, but emphasized the importance of using it effectively. “Of course the Internet has helped generate business and awareness for and about our hotel, but everybody is on the Internet so it’s more of how you use it. You have to be smart in your ad word buys and clever with your marketing approach. Internet marketing is always changing,” he said.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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