TBEX 2012 – Why Key$tone?

Sure, Keystone is a probably beautiful place – but WHY the distant, expensive locations, TBEX??

Keystone is 98 miles (driving) West of Denver, Colorado and they definitely don’t have a light rail system (such as NYC subways and Vancouver’s SkyTrain) that’s going to take you there from the airport. The closest airport to Keystone with commercial airline service is Vail, Colorado – 51 miles away.

First, let’s take a look at a sampling of some current airfares from airline hub cities to Denver. New York to Denver: A Kayak.com search shows fares currently about $400 round trip, and that’s out of Newark. Nobody likes Newark. It’s $413 from LaGuardia and $523 from JFK. Los Angeles to Denver: $192 round trip. Atlanta to Denver: $269 round trip. Chicago to Denver:$219 round trip.

Now, let’s check out current fares from those same cities to Vail, Colorado.  New York to Vail: $560 from EWR, $829 from LGA and an incredible $1162 from JFK! Los Angeles to Vail: $809. Atlanta to Vail: $696. Chicago to Vail: $573. Of course, as we all know air fares are very volatile – so these prices will surely be different. They could be lower, or staggeringly higher. My bet is on higher prices, as fares have been trending upward due to the price of jet fuel. And don’t forget those pesky bag fees! If Candice Walsh drove to Keystone from Halifax in a car that got 20 miles per gallon of gas, she’d spend $479.50 (US) on gas at $3.50 a gallon.

Okay, so you ponied-up for your plane ticket and you opted to fly to Denver because it was cheaper. But wait… how to you get to Keystone? The first option would be to take a shuttle service. Keystone Resort offers one… for $142 round trip from the Denver Airport, and no shuttle from Vail is mentioned on their website. There is also the car rental option. A 4-day rental for an economy car at the Denver Airport currently starts at $113.99, but you’ll probably find a 4-cylinder engine severely lacks the gusto you’d want on mountain roads. A full size sedan will run you $129.10. Your best option would probably be to grab some friends and divide up the cost on a full-size SUV – the cheapest of which is currently about $390 for 4 days. Plus gas, of course! Perhaps Keystone will offer a free TBEX attendee shuttle (*party bus) to/from the Denver Airport.


An Expedia Search found 26 hotels in and near Keystone, with prices-per-night starting at $85.  I’m not a big hostel person, but I met several people who do prefer the cheap sleeps. I did a Google search for “Hostels in Keystone, Colorado” and was unsuccessful in finding a viable option. So if you’re a solo-traveler who usually stays on the cheap in hostels, I’ve got two words for you: SLUMBER PARTY. There are also no major brand hotels in Keystone, so you won’t be staying in town for free on loyalty program points. I predict a beer and Nutella-fueled, hippie-style blogger commune at a nearby campground in Dillon, CO. But the drawback there would be a lack or shortage of power outlets for our phones and iWhatevers. Does anyone have a portable generator, or bear repellant?


The Vail Resorts TBEX 2012 press release mentions golf, horseback riding, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and the like – but how many of us can afford excursions like that? Okay, many of those things will likely be discounted, but how about the time investment? Did anyone find a gap in this year’s itinerary to squeeze in a round of golf? Only those who have the extra time to arrive a couple of days early or stay late have that kind of time. I managed to spend a couple of hours in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, but only because I decided to skip the Sunday afternoon sessions of the conference.

Suggestion for 2013

Why not Las Vegas? It holds no shortage of cheap rooms, hundreds of flights, convention space and places to party side-networking locations. Most of us who have gone to TBEX never slept more than what would qualify as a nap anyway.  Or may I suggest Austin, Texas? They’re quite familiar with the large convention scene there (see: SXSW), as well as being highly tech-savvy. Other centrally-located places that come to mind are Nashville and Chicago.

I love Colorado. I have been there several times, to several parts of the state. I hope to live there someday and it is one of my favorite places on earth. Denver would have been a great choice for TBEX 2012, and local enough for the Keystone and Vail Resort sponsors to really convey their message. I have never been to Keystone or any of the Vail Resorts properties, and I’d sure love to one day. One thing we all love about TBEX is the sense of community, but I’m afraid the conference location itself might make TBEX 2012 inaccessible for some.

Note: At the time of this blog’s publication, very few details were provided such as what kind of lodging discounts and transportation assistance may be provided for TBEX 2012. Hotel discounts were offered for TBEX 2011 in Vancouver, but mainly at 4+ star hotels, and still kept the price per night well above $100. Ironically, the Stanley Cup Finals were happening in Vancouver at the same time as TBEX 2011. I couldn’t help but wonder if the best hotels in town weren’t kicking themselves for slashing their rates for us, when they could likely be getting full price from hockey fans.


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Paul Thompson

Highly passionate about all things related to aviation! I combine my knowledge of the aircraft manufacturing and airline industry to provide a detailed and first-person point of view. I have worked on unique stories with airlines and companies including American Airlines, British Airways, Goodyear, Honeywell, jetBlue, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Red Bull Air Racing, Southwest Airlines, and the U.S. Navy.

18 thoughts on “TBEX 2012 – Why Key$tone?”

  1. I totally agree with you, Paul. I hauled myself out to Vancouver (which was WELL worth it) this year, because I knew it would be an amazing destination. I can’t afford to do the same next year, especially when it’s so impractical to get to once I’m on the ground in Colorado. There are so many other places to choose from that are centrally located and easy to get to (Minneapolis? Dallas? Austin? Memphis? St. Louis? New Orleans?) … it’s disappointing.

  2. Vail Resorts owns Colorado Mountain Express, so, yes, since Vail Resorts is the presenting TBEX 2012 sponsor, there will probably will be deeply discounted (or free) shuttle services from Denver to the mountains.

    Vail Resorts also said they will be offering some discounted accommodations at their hotels and condominiums in the Keystone area. I am pretty sure that if 8 TBEX’rs share a condo w/ 4 bedrooms it won’t be that expensive. (Did you price that type of lodging at all? There are TONS of condo vacation rentals in Keystone.)

    Disclaimer: I live in Colorado; Keystone is less than 2 hours away from my home. I blog for Vail Resorts’ social site buzz.snow.com, and I really, really like the Vail Resorts’ PR team. Yeah, I’m a fan of the choice of venue.

    1. Hi Kara, I thought I might hear from you! 🙂 No, I did not price condo rentals. I have no doubt that Keystone is a wonderful place, and I expect as the details are fleshed out my concerns will be unwarranted. Hopefully.

      1. My guess is people are going to think I am getting paid to post about the beauty of mountains, how cool Keystone is, etc. I SWEAR I’m not.

        Re: camping. That’s the beauty of the presenting sponsor OWNING so much property in the conference locale. You want a tent city on the slopes? Ask Vail Resorts for it. Maybe an impromptu campground can happen! I mean, who knows w/ zoning and rules and regulations and such, but my mantra: Never hurts to ask.

  3. Paul,
    We’re working fast and furiously right now on lodging rates, transportation option and rates, etc., working with all of our lines of business and partners to make TBEX in Keystone affordable for everyone. We own most of the lodging at Keystone and will offer discounted options on everything from small inns to hotels to condominiums. We also own and operate Colorado Mountain Express, the shuttle between Denver and Keystone and will be offering discounted rates on transportation as well. We’ve reached out to our strategic partner, Hertz, to offer special discounts for those who want to drive up and do post trips after, and we’ve reached out to our airline partners to see if they would be willing to offer some type of special discount on flights next June. Some of the outdoor activities will be sponsored while others will be offered at a big discount – and we’ll work with Kim and the TBEX staff on scheduling them in appropriately.

    Vail Resorts is investing a significant amount into making this attractive to as many as possible and extremely successful. We haven’t had a chance, since the announcement, to put the it all together but will do that in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned and feel free to email me with any questions at kladyga@vailresorts.com. We’d really love to have you come!
    Kelly Ladyga
    VP, Corporate Communications
    Vail Resorts, Inc.

    1. Hi Kelly,
      I truly appreciate your reply, and thank you for addressing my concerns on the affordability of the events. I’m looking forward to the details as the become available. I am confident it will be a great event for all who attend.

  4. I hear your concerns, Paul, and if I weren’t such a ski bum/outdoor resort lover, I’d probably share them. Coming from Oregon, my concern lies in the cost of airfare, but once on the ground, I’m confident we’ll be taken care of by Vail Resorts. My reason: personal experience working with ski resort and outdoor adventure travel PR over the last few years; they are, as a group, devoted to educating bloggers about their brand, social media savvy, and incredibly welcoming. I think we’re in good hands. (And as Kara mentioned above, I’m certainly not paid to say this either; I had the pleasure of meeting the Keystone representatives last weekend, and love their enthusiasm and respect for the blogging world.)

  5. I agree with this post entirely. When I first heard “Denver” I got really excited! A decent size city with loads of accommodation options and public transport and local shuttles. When I realized that it was really “Keystone” to me, that is like saying, “Come to Los Angeles (where I live)! But wait! The conference is really being held in Big Bear!” Ugh, no thanks. Yes, discounts are good, but off of what original price? And having to rely on shuttles? What if something falls through? I like to take things into my own hands and not rely on others because most things (in my life when counting on others) fall through. Sorry to be a little Debbie Downer there.

    Plus, to be in a small town, there is so escape! At least with a decent size town, you can turn the corner and not see anyone you don’t know. Here, I doubt that will happen.

    But then, travel blogging isn’t my business. Just seems like a lot of work to me. If it was going to be in a place I was interested in traveling to, then sign me up (aka: Denver!) But a small resort town? No thanks.

    1. Rebecca, I totally get it. Working in the transportation industry myself, I picture angry tweets from the Denver Airport because someone(‘s) flight was late and they missed the shuttle, or not everyone waiting fit on the shuttle and has to wait an hour until the next one.

      Of course I hope that doesn’t happen, but it happens. I think the best way to remedy this is to somehow RESERVE a shuttle time, based on when your flight arrives. Relying on a first-come, first-served method is asking for trouble.

  6. I haven’t spent much time in Colorado, but I’m going to wait to sign up until more details come out regarding lodging and transport discounts. I’m sure the Keystone peeps are going to do what they can to make this work for writers on a budget, however, I still need to see numbers before I can commit financially.

    Though if TBEX ’12 coincides with next year’s Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour, that would be a plus. LOL

    That said, I’d really like future TBEX’s to be held in more affordable locations, like Vegas or Orlando, with lots of cheap flights to/from and cheap hotels. Maybe even look at not holding it during the summer, which tends to be peak travel season, thereby making it harder to find cheap flights.

  7. Paul, like your analysis of this but hopefully everything will work out affordability wise. I think it is a bit inconvenient to have it in Keystone but I think the big concern is cost and transportation. I think Vegas is a bad idea though – no one would go to the sessions 🙂

  8. I won’t be going because it’s in Vail. In Vancouver there was a large group of us who shared the hostel and as low as the prices can go for a condo, it won’t be $15/night.

    Why can’t they just pick a hub?

  9. Love the suggestions for Austin or Minneapolis (or someplace like Atlanta or Savannah maybe – though Savannah only has the one hostel/pensione that we can find).

    We can drive to Colorado, so we’ll finally be able to make it to TBEX ’12, but we understand that it’s not the same as previous years (with regard to accommodation availability and keeping down costs), so we understand what others are saying.

    Don’t really care to go to Las Vegas for *every* convention we attend, so we don’t care for that option…

  10. I bought my ticket to TBEX 12 but I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to make it or not. A roundtrip flight to Denver from where I live (Edmonton) is $850 plus tax. I’m looking at cashing in some frequent flier miles, but that still doesn’t take care of the accommodations. I think a slumber party is about right for me.

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