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April 16, 2013
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March occupancy up from last year

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Snowmass Village hotels saw slightly more business in March over last year, thanks largely to a flurry of last-minute bookings made after some significant snowstorms.

Snowmass occupancy in March came in at 58.6 percent, a 4.2 percent increase from last year, according to a report by the Mountain Travel Research Program. It didn't look that way prior to the month, though.

"We were coming in almost dead flat with last March," said Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.

March had a long way to go, but a dramatic change in the ski conditions got the phones ringing. March bookings made that same month were up 20 percent over last year, helping the numbers to rise above.

Snowmass hotels saw a strong finish in April with close to 50 percent occupancy the first half of the month, double the rate that Snowmass saw in the same period last year.

Most of the visitors were here for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic the first week of April and the Mountain Travel Symposium the second.

"And last year we had Easter in April," Tomcich said. "That really illustrates the power of those two groups."

Tim Johnson, director of sales and marketing for the Westin and Wildwood, said numbers were strong for those properties this season.

"The whole Westin rebranding has made a tremendous difference for us," Johnson said. "We're far above even what Snowmass saw on a monthly basis."

The properties almost sold out during the winter sports clinic and Mountain Travel Symposium, he said. All of the symposium business events were in the Westin Snowmass Conference Center.

"That quite honestly took us over the top," Johnson said. "We're hoping that momentum continues through the summer season."

With approximately 1,200 mountain-travel professionals in town for the symposium, including tour operators, ski clubs and meeting planners, Aspen and Snowmass got a lot of exposure last week, Johnson said.

"The feedback was all positive," he said. "The snow was great. I think the community really opened (its) arms. ... It couldn't have gotten any better for the Snowmass community to host the symposium the year we had all these new things open."

With so much late-season snowfall, the phones are ringing this week at Stay Aspen Snowmass, a week that's normally one of the quietest of the year. The word is out that Highlands is staying open an extra weekend, Tomcich said.

"I wish we could have had this kind of snow cycle the day before the season opened instead of the day after it closes," he said.

Johnson said he doesn't expect any skier traffic in Snowmass for the additional open weekend at Highlands, which is April 27 and 28.

The data for the overall season won't be reported until after April 30, but according to the report by the Mountain Travel Research Program, Snowmass occupancy for the past six months is up 6 percent. Tomcich estimated that this season is close to exceeding last year's numbers.

Tomcich listed snow conditions, group business, the calendar - the way New Year's, Carnival and Presidents Day all fell - and the remodels of the Westin and Wildwood as factors in increasing Snowmass occupancy this year.

"It was a recipe for a successful year in Snowmass," Tomcich said.

Mary Harris, general manager of the Timberline Condominiums, said the property also had a good year overall and a better March. The Timberline also benefited from some of the group business, particularly in the last two weeks of the season.

"Mostly ... what we do is individual," Harris said. "And, of course, international has been strong, like everyone up here."

Both the Timberline and the Westin will remain open to guests during the spring. The Wildwood is closed until early June.

The dining options at the Westin also will stay open for business.

"My goal is to really spread the word ... you can actually go out to dinner right here in Snowmass," Johnson said.

There won't be many guests over the next few weeks, Johnson said, but there are some groups booked for the spring. The Snowmass Kitchen will have a special menu for the spring season that's more affordable.

"We're hoping that we'll see some local traffic," Johnson said.

Looking ahead at summer, Harris said there's still a lot of opportunity for growth. Johnson said he's glad to see a lot of events being organized.

"A lot of this business is going to have to be event-driven and group-driven," he said.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 16, 2013 04:36PM Published Apr 16, 2013 04:35PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.