DENVER -- Colorado cities, facing economic sanctions after last month's popular vote to bar homosexual rights legislation, seemed more concerned this week with snowfall than with fallout from boycotts of the state's vital tourism industry.
Ski resort cities from Aspen to Vail, and Denver, with its growing convention trade, stand to lose millions of dollars if the move by gay rights groups and their supporters continues to punish the state because voters adopted the amendment to the state constitution.
The movement has already found supporters in the entertainment industry and among city leaders outside the state.
But officials in the Rocky Mountain resort towns said that as long as the snowfall holds up, there should be strong demand in hotels and on the ski slopes that account for up to two-thirds of the towns' annual revenues.
"We have seen cancellations, but we don't know whether those rooms have gone vacate," said Dallas Everhart, finance director in Aspen. "There are still people in Aspen and it's packed all winter long."
Added Vail Controller Steve Thompson, "I think the big groups that come here are what is going to affect all the most. We'll have to wait and see what happens."
A check of resorts in the two well-known ski spots found that seasonal demand is so strong that hotel rooms are still in short supply despite cancellations by tourists protesting the Nov. 3 vote.
Amendment 2 passed with 53% of the vote. The controversial measure repeals anti-bias laws protecting homosexuals and forbids any future local amendments or state legislation that would prohibit such discrimination.
While the measure was adopted in a statewide vote, officials say it is ironic that cities and towns such as Denver, Aspen, and Vail -- which have the most to lose -- were strongly opposed to the measure.
That fact was not lost on the state's bond dealers, which still plan their annual winter outing on the ski slopes in February.
"A lot of people that are concerned about Amendment 2 know that it failed miserably in the ski towns," said Don Taylor, finance director in Breckenridge, another ski resort community that could suffer. "It lost by about 2 to 1 here."
While optimistic that the economic fallout will be minimal, local officials are taking the threat of an extended boycott seriously.
Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has gone on the road and national television to urge tourists and convention-goers not to punish the state's largest city, where 60% of voters rejected Amendment 2.
"He thinks a boycott is counter-productive," said Briggs Gamblin, a spokesman for the major. "He has said that it will probably only increase support for Amendment 2 in the state."
Yet the measure is causing quite a bit of controversy around the nation.
The mayors of New York City and Atlanta this month urged the U.S. Conference of Mayors to move its annual meeting scheduled for next June in Denver.
The Philadelphia City Council recently voted to cut off travel to Colorado, prohibit spending on conferences or seminars in the state, and discourage city transactions with state businesses.
Pop singer Barbra Streisand has urged artists and musicians to boycott the state in protest of the amendment.
And Colorado lost out for the location of the shooting of an ABC television miniseries.
The production company handling the shoot said the antihomosexual legislation was the deciding factor against working in Colorado. The television production, which would have generated an estimated $6 million for the state economy, will be done in Utah.
Finally, a group called Boycott Colorado, based in Denver, has called on people not to visit the state for vacation or business conventions, and to avoid buying products made in Colorado.
Denver and the resort cities have joined in litigation asking a circuit judge to overturn the amendment as unconstitutional. Officials hope their fight against Amendment 2 will show gay rights groups and other's the city's intent.
The mayor has appeared on "The Arsenio Hall Show" and other national talk shows and has met head-on the growing national publicity over the amendment. But the city will still suffer.
Already the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau has reported that three major groups have canceled meetings worth a total of $10 million to the city's economy.
"I don't think the fiscal impact of Amendment 2 can be correctly measured yet," said Dick Haber, a bond analyst with Kemper Securities in Denver. "If this thing develops into a large-scale national issue, it could hurt."
He is not alone in that view.
"Tourism is an important industry to Colorado," said Ditmar Kopf, assistant vice president at Moody's Investors Service. "The resort cities are heavily reliant on the sales tax. The population usually swells to two or three times their normal size with visitors."
Because Colorado cities depend on tourism-linked sales tax dollars for up to 75% of their budgets, the implications of lost vacationers could be felt immediately. For instance, sales tax collections account for 52% of the $23 million budget in Vail, most of which is earned during the four-month primary ski season now under way.
The greatest fear local officials express is not publicity over the amendment and short-term loss of revenues, but the long-term effect of any boycott and how it will be compounded by new tax and spending limits voters approved on Nov. 3.
Because the curbs, known as Amendment, 1 limit revenue to a level determined by a complex formula, even a slight decline in such a critical source like the sales tax could be a long-term setback.
Here is how: Say a city has revenues of $1 million and the formula allows for increases of 10% the following year. However, instead of seeing the budget grow to $1.1 million, cities affected by a boycott would see less if revenues this year fell to $900,000. In that case, revenues the following year could grow to only $990,000 unless voters approved increases.
"Amendment 1 is going to crush some of them a lot more than any boycott," said Chris Blackwood, a vice president and director of economic and financial research at George K. Baum & Co. in Denver.
Aspen's Everhart agreed that Amendment 1 is a threat. "We're a long way today from having [a boy-cott] impact our bond rating or have an effect financially," he said. "But down the road it could mean a reduction in services."