Report: Aspen, Snowmass bookings look ‘strong’ despite slow start to winter |

Report: Aspen, Snowmass bookings look ‘strong’ despite slow start to winter

A snowboarder catches air Saturday at Aspen Highlands as a skier follows. Despite a slow start to winter — Aspen Mountain opened later than planned and all four mountains have limited terrain open — advance bookings for area hotels look strong for the season.
Jeremy Swanson/Courtesy photo via Aspen Skiing Co. |

overcoming low snow

Despite the slow start to winter, paid occupancy for Aspen and Snowmass in December is expected to exceed occupancy for the same month last year.

Aspen occupancy

December 2016: 52.2%

December 2015: 50.8%

Snowmass occupancy

December 2016: 46.9%

December 2015: 42%

Source: Stay Aspen Snowmass

Advance bookings for the heart of ski season look strong for the lodging industry in Aspen and Snowmass despite a slow start to winter, according to the latest occupancy report.

Paid occupancy was down for November compared with last year and this month will lag behind until Dec. 27, then the switch gets flipped on, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency.

“Beginning on Tuesday the 27th through the first full week of January, occupancies are as strong as they’ve ever been,” Tomcich wrote in a report released to the lodging industry Tuesday.

“It’s interesting how black and white it is,” he added in an interview, drawing a distinction between the slow business prior to Dec. 27 and the surge after that date. He noted that the week after Jan. 1 will be stronger in Snowmass than the week ending with Christmas.

Occupancy will remain strong until after the Winter X Games concludes Jan. 30. As bookings stand now, there will be a two-week trough until mid-February until business surges again. Bookings look strong from Feb. 15 through the end of March, he said.

The occupancy reports are based on research by DestiMetrics, a Denver firm that looks at occupancy and bookings trends at destination resorts throughout the West. It samples 18 properties representing 76 percent of the available units in Aspen and 11 properties representing 60 percent of the units in Snowmass Village. DestiMetrics’ data provides an accurate look at the winter, Tomcich said.

Pace slowed in November

Tomcich said the bookings pace was “way ahead” of last year prior to the “snow drought.” The calls fell off during November after warm and dry weather hung around after Halloween.

The rooms booked in November this year for arrival any time during the ski season was down 25 percent in Snowmass compared with bookings in November 2015, according to the report released by Tomcich.

In Aspen, the bookings pace in November fell nearly 8 percent compared with the same month the year before, the report showed.

Travelers and lodge operators were getting “nervous coming into Thanksgiving,” Tomcich acknowledged. But as the snow picked up, so did their confidence. He said the calls coming into the central reservations center has picked up again.

Paid occupancy in November was down 1.5 percent in Aspen and 5.6 percent in Snowmass, according to DestiMetrics.

Early deficit overcome

The slump continued into December. However, because the first three weeks of the month are relatively slow, that deficit can easily be overcome during the holidays, Tomcich said.

That’s exactly the case this year. The paid occupancy rate for Aspen as of Nov. 30 was 52.2 percent for December compared with 50.8 percent last year. That’s an increase of 2.7 percent.

The paid occupancy for Snowmass is 46.9 percent this December compared with 42 percent last year, an increase of 11.6 percent.

Tomcich said he expects a slow, steady increase in the number of visitors in Aspen and Snowmass starting Thursday and peaking Dec. 28.

Snowmass Village Tourism Director Rose Abello said her organization teamed well with properties in the village to attract a significant amount of group business from January through April. A continuing education conference for attorneys will bring more than 500 participants and companions to Snowmass Village for a six-day event starting Jan. 2, Abello said.

Snowmass marketing partners are working on group sales for years ahead — as far out as 2025, according to Abello.

“It builds such an important foundation for our season,” she said.