ASPEN - Projected December lodging occupancy in Aspen was down 16.5 percent going into the month, but reaction to last weekend's snowstorm has whittled that number down. More snow in this weekend's forecast is just icing on the cake, one local hotelier said.
Aspen Mountain came up tops in the state among ski resorts open for business when it reported 15 inches of overnight snow on Sunday morning. The bounty did not go unnoticed.
"This past Monday was our busiest day in terms of incoming calls here at Stay Aspen Snowmass since the Thursday before Food and Wine, June 14," said Bill Tomcich, president of the reservations agency. "Obviously, the snow is good for business and good for call volume."
The agency has seen some big bookings in the past few days, he added, including a $25,000 reservation for five nights in March.
The phones started ringing at individual lodging properties, as well.
"Call volume was definitely up," said Charlie Case, innkeeper at Aspen's Annabelle Inn, though he added, "I didn't sell out New Year's week or anything."
"There's no question that, while people were perhaps hesitant to book a week ago, after we got that Saturday night snow, ... the calls picked up," said Warren Klug, general manager at Aspen Square Hotel.
The 100-room condominium hotel is nearly full for the Christmas holiday, and Klug said he expects guests to reserve the remaining rooms, as well.
Snow in the forecast again this weekend, starting Friday evening, will be "frosting on the cake," Klug said.
"People have got the word that we have snow. A storm this weekend will make it that much better," he said.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service was predicting 2 to 4 inches for Aspen tonight and possibly another 1 to 3 inches Saturday. The local weather bloggers at www.aspenweather.net had 3 to 5 inches in their six-day forecast.
Snow-inspired bookings between now and Christmas, however, aren't likely to make up all of the deficit in December occupancy predicted in the latest report from the Mountain Travel Research Program, according to Tomcich. Reservations on the books by Nov. 30 indicated occupancy in Aspen would be down 16.5 percent for the month, the organization said in a report issued Thursday. The projection is based on a sampling of 17 properties representing as much as 73 percent of all the lodging accommodations in Aspen.
The organization's report put December occupancy in Snowmass Village down 2.6 percent based on reservations made by Nov. 30.
"There are a lot of empty rooms before Christmas right now," Tomcich said.
That said, there are pre-Christmas lodging discounts to be had in both Aspen and Snowmass Village and available airline seats, he noted.
Both Aspen and Snowmass will be about half full on Saturday night, according to Tomcich. A lull will follow before the resorts grow increasingly busy as United Airlines bumps up local service to its full winter schedule on Wednesday. The final three days of December are pacing well ahead of last year, as is most of the first week of January, Tomcich said.
"This is important because those are some of the busiest nights with the highest rates of the entire winter," he said in an email.
Occupancy in Aspen was up last month by 4.7 percent compared with November 2011, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program report. In addition, the average daily rate for accommodations in Aspen was up 6 percent last month. Aspen's occupancy for the past six months was up 6.2 percent, while the average daily rate was up 8 percent compared with the same period a year ago.
In Snowmass, November occupancy was down 4.3 percent, but the average daily rate was up by 4.7 percent, the report indicated. For the past six months, occupancy in Snowmass was down 9 percent, but the average daily rate was up 14.3 percent, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program.