Report: Winter lodging numbers expected to break records across Rocky Mountain west |

Report: Winter lodging numbers expected to break records across Rocky Mountain west

Scott Miller
Vail Daily
Skiers and snowboarders wait in line at the Exhibition lift at Aspen Highlands for opening day for the 2018-19 season.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

After years of rate increases, it looks like mountain resort lodging properties are easing back on prices hikes in order to keep people coming.

DestiMetrics by Inntopia studies lodging trends throughout the mountain resort industry. A recent news release from the firm indicates that western mountain resorts will set records for the 2018-19 ski season.

Those records may come across the industry’s full playing field of occupancy, rate and revenue.

Tom Foley, of DestiMetrics, said while rates have increased, those increases have been modest and are almost flat across seasons despite a strong national economy and good snow throughout the Rockies.

The softening of rate increases have been developing since early 2018, Foley said, but the reasons aren’t clear.

It could be price points, with consumers becoming unwilling to pay higher lodging rates.

It could be a decline in consumer confidence nationwide. Foley said the Consumer Confidence Index, while still strong, has declined over the past few months.

Or it could be due to competition from the online rent-by-owner industry, but Foley said it’s unclear whether rent-by-owner units are putting downward pressure on the rates of professionally managed units.

“If a professionally managed unit has been for sale for $1, and a unit is for sale on VRBO for 80 cents, is the professionally managed inventory coming down to match?” Foley wondered.

Despite the questions about slowing rate growth, there’s no doubt about the strength of the winter season, which was boosted by strong March results.

March occupancy was up a 7.4% across western resorts compared with March 2018, according to the release.

Steamboat saw a similar uptick in March with about 5,000 more airline passengers than the previous year, according to an annual report from Steamboat’s Local Marketing District.

Janet Fischer, director of the airline program for Steamboat Resort, pointed to better snow conditions, the Ikon Pass and more nonstop service from major cities as reasons for the bump in spring visitation.

Summer outlook

The coming question is what the summer lodging picture looks like.

Reservations on the books for May through September are down 0.7% across western resorts compared with summer 2018, according to the report. But higher average daily rates are up 2.7%, boosting overall revenue 2.2% ahead of last year.

For the past several years, growth in mountain resort travel has far outpaced the rest of the economy, Foley said, so a slowdown might have been inevitable.

Foley emphasized that summer guests are different than winter guests. Summer rates are lower and lead times are shorter than winter.

While rates may fluctuate, the fact remains that plenty of people are visiting mountain resorts year-round.

“Retailers, restaurants, ground transportation … everyone generally benefits from more (guests),” he said.