With winter challenges ahead, bookings look strong in Aspen, Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

With winter challenges ahead, bookings look strong in Aspen, Snowmass

Two people take their dog for a walk on a brisk morning in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen lodging properties set an October record with a 54.4% occupancy rate last month, and November is “pacing quite well,” according to a report from Aspen Skiing Co.

More signs the local lodging industry is strong showed November bookings as of Oct. 31 are 14.5% ahead of last year through the same date, and 50% better than 2019, based on the November 2021 Occupancy Report & Executive Summary published Friday by Skico and its Stay Aspen Snowmass division.

“Thanksgiving weekend is where the majority of the occupancy accumulates for opening weekend,” the report said.

The winter months, defined as November through April, showed an occupancy rate of 36.7% as of Oct. 31, a whopping 88.5% ahead of last year and 7% better than two years ago.

While the U.S. lifted international travel restrictions Nov. 8 by allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Europe, Mexico and Canada, “the announcement has come too late for us to see a full recovery,” the report said.

Even so, December, February and March are all up double-digits with January down 11% “strictly due to the lack on international business on the books,” the report said.

The report’s data comes from DestiMetrics, which tracks lodging performances in resort destinations for Stowe, Vermont-based Inntopia.

Along with the rest of ski country in the North America, Aspen and Snowmass need snow and employees, but the economy is holding and the worst of the pandemic is behind though it still persists.

“The first chairlifts of the 2021-22 season have barely started to turn but if Mother Nature delivers the goods, the pandemic continues to fade, and the economy remains stable, it is shaping up to be a very good year. Challenges related to adequate staffing and employee housing are still significant, but the return of some international J1 visa workers should help mitigate the issue, and the booking pace suggests that visitors are eager to return to a far more typical mountain vacation,” said an article published on Inntopia’s website.

Peggy Jo Trish helps visitors at Maroon Bells Lake on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Looking back, the summer months — defined by the occupancy report as May through October — combined for respective occupancy rates of 65.6% and 51.5% in Aspen and Snowmass. Both of those figures topped the previous summer records, both set in 2018, of 62.6% occupancy in Aspen and 50.8% in Snowmass, the report said.

“The key performance drivers for this summer were numerous,” the report said. “U.S. citizens were getting vaccinated in the spring and summer and were still restricted from traveling freely around the world. Our events calendar was affected with Ideas Fest being virtual and Food & Wine Classic moving from June to September.”

Noting July’s strong performance was compounded by the Glenwood Canyon closure (rockslide) and “significant private home occupancy, and it’s understandable why July felt tremendous visitor pressure,” the Aspen report said.