ASPEN - With the Fat Tuesday celebration at Snowmass Tuesday and Presidents Day weekend on the horizon, projected local lodging occupancy is looking up, particularly in Snowmass Village, where the resort is expected to top 80 percent capacity almost continuously through early March, according to the latest projections.
Only for a four-day stretch, Feb. 19 through 22, will hotel and lodging occupancy in Snowmass dip to about 60 percent, according to Bill Tomcich, president of local reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.
By the close of January, bookings for February in Snowmass were pacing 20 percent ahead of last year, while reservations at Aspen properties were up about 1 percent, putting overall occupancy for the month in Aspen around 63 percent going into February, according to the latest data from the Mountain Travel Research Program.
Aspen saw a 3 percent dip in overall occupancy in January, while Snowmass occupancies were essentially flat compared to the same month last year, but both resorts were more than 90 percent full for the four-day X Games weekend in the latter half of the month.
"Once we hit X Games, it was great. Before that, it was pretty slow," said Corey Enloe, general manager of the 90-room Sky Hotel in Aspen.
February bookings at the Sky Hotel are up about 10 percent, putting the hotel about three-quarters full for the month overall, according to Enloe. March reservations also have filled in, he said.
"A month ago, I was 10 to 15 percent behind (for March); now I'm a little bit ahead," he said.
At the Gant, a 140-unit Aspen condo property, general manager Donnie Lee reported strong group business in the weeks ahead. March occupancy is up, and February numbers are keeping pace with 2012, which is good, Lee said.
"I had a strong February last year," he said.
Occupancy numbers aside, the Mountain Travel Research Program report contained some encouraging news for hotel and lodging operators - the average daily rate paid for accommodations in both Aspen and Snowmass was up significantly last month compared with 2012. The rate was up 11.4 percent in Aspen and up nearly 10 percent in Snowmass Village. The gain, Tomcich said, was partly the result of more than $100 million invested in local hotel upgrades - at the Westin Snowmass Resort, Wildwood Snowmass and Aspen's Hotel Jerome.
According to the Mountain Travel Research Program, overall occupancy for the past six months in Snowmass (August through January) was down 7.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago and was off pace in Aspen by 3.7 percent. The average daily rate for the six-month stretch was up, though - 15.6 percent in Snowmass and about 8 percent in Aspen.
Reservations made in January for future stays in Aspen (for all arrival dates) were up about 10 percent; they were down 9.5 percent in Snowmass compared with reservations placed in January 2012.
January's slight decline in hotel occupancy in Aspen came on the heels of a 15 percent drop in December. In Snowmass, December occupancy was down 12.5 percent, according to the Mountain Travel Research Program.
The December declines were blamed on lackluster tourist business early in the month, which also was reflected in the city of Aspen's retail sales for the month (down 7.4 percent) and skier visits, which were off pace by 8 percent at local ski areas through the end of December.
However, both Aspen and Snowmass posted occupancies topping 90 percent for the holidays, according to Tomcich.
Mountain Travel Research Program data, issued monthly, is based on a sampling of as many as 17 properties representing as many as 84 percent of the total lodging units in Aspen and as many as 10 properties representing nearly 80 percent of the available lodging in Snowmass Village.