Aspen-Snowmass lodging industry’s occupancy plummeting during pandemic

Collective numbers were down 26.6% in December, forecast to fall 56% in January

Hotel Jerome bellmen Christopher Prater, left, and Rob Carney work outside the front door in Aspen on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Prater explained that the Hotel Jerome is currently at a little above 10% occupancy. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen’s lodging occupancy plummeted 34% in December but prospects are even bleaker for January, according to the latest report from central bookings agency Stay Aspen Snowmass.

The Aspen lodging industry managed occupancy of 41% in December, down from nearly 62% for the month the prior year.

Snowmass properties reached 43% occupancy, down 16% for December 2019, according to the report.

Collectively, the occupancy was 41.8%, down 26.6% from last year.

“December was an interesting ride with erratic booking trends full of cancellations and last-minute bookings,” the report said.

The occupancy peaked higher during the important holiday period, though still well below typical level.

“Our peak day was Dec. 31 at 77% occupancy,” the report said.

For the month, average daily rate in Aspen dropped to $618 from $761 in December 2019, a fall of nearly 19%.

The average daily rate was down 5.2% to $475 in Snowmass Village.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s expectations for holiday business were a moving target since regulations have evolved during the winter, said Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications.

“The holidays were in the range we expected given current regulations and restrictions,” he said. “There were a few days when we hit nearly 75 percent of traditional business levels, but overall numbers were lower than that.”

Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president of mountain operations, said the holiday period “was mostly in line with our expectations.”

Private lessons are going well for the ski school, she said. All group lessons are currently reduced to half-day and full-day isn’t an option.

As tough as the early season has been for businesses, it’s getting tougher this month. January will likely be the weakest performing month for year-to-year occupancy levels this winter, according to the Stay Aspen Snowmass report.

“For decades, January occupancy has been driven by a strong foundation of groups, events and international travel — all compromised if not completely gone for this year,” the report said. “Collectively, we are pacing behind 56.1%.”

Monday night, the Pitkin County Board of Health voted to move into Red level restrictions, which include a 50% capacity limit on lodging in Aspen, Snowmass Village and the surrounding area.

Paid occupancy in January is currently at 31% for Aspen compared to 68% for the month in 2020. In Snowmass Village, it’s at 29.6% compared with 70.5% one year ago.

“In stark contrast to the holidays, the remainder of January only has one day at 40% occupancy,” the report said. “The balance of January occupancy is in the mid-20s (to) 30s range.”

The current reservations on the books don’t top 40% until President’s Weekend, Feb. 13 to 15.

For Aspen and Snowmass combined, the winter occupancy from November through April is currently down 45.6%. Occupancy is at 26.2% this season compared with 48.2% last season, the report said.