Aspen winter-season bookings on the rise | AspenTimes.com

Aspen winter-season bookings on the rise

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Although the Roaring Fork Valley and much of the state have received light snowfall in the past few weeks, another type of "early storm" has been dumping business on the desk of Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Tomcich was referring to the Early Storm tour-operator promotional effort, primarily marketed by Aspen Skiing Co., that has led to a large number of advance winter-season bookings in recent weeks. The offer expired Oct. 21.

"It's something Skico has been pushing really hard, and it's been incredibly effective," Tomcich said.

That promotion, coupled with early snowfall, gave Stay Aspen Snowmass its biggest week of advance bookings since January 2010. Early Storm offered special deals for visitors who plan to come between Jan. 5 and March 31.

"We've booked more than a quarter million dollars of lodging since the middle of last week," Tomcich said, adding that other types of data related to the recent bookings are not yet available.

While bookings for January through March are shaping up well for the local hospitality industry, November and April "look terrible" at this point, Tomcich said. The fact that Easter weekend falls late in April this year doesn't help the situation. Most local ski areas close in early to mid-April.

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Meanwhile, October is shaping up to be a record month for Aspen in terms of hotel occupancy, Tomcich said. A Sept. 30 report from DestiMetrics, a Denver firm that measures hotel and lodging inventories in resort communities, placed Aspen at 24.8 percent, an 11 percent increase compared with October 2012.

However, the slow start to the leaf-lover season — fall colors didn't kick into gear until late September — spilled a lot of that tourism activity into the first half of October, providing a small boost to retailers, restaurants and lodges that have remained open in lieu of closing until ski season gets underway on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28) at Snowmass Ski Area and Aspen Mountain.

Which means this: Aspen is on pace to have a record month in terms of October hotel and lodge bookings. The record was set in 2011, a great year for fall foliage, when occupancy for the month was 32.6 percent.

"A record October this year is realistic for Aspen," Tomcich said.

While October business activity has seemed busier than usual around town, it will become progressively quieter with each coming week up until Thanksgiving, he added.

In related accommodations-industry news, Aspen had a good September, according to DestiMetrics. The rate as of Sept. 30 was 47.6 percent, an increase of 1.8 percent compared with the same month last year.

Snowmass Village also experienced an increase, the firm said, with 23.2 percent occupancy, a 1.5 percent increase compared with September 2012.

However, revenue per room was down 3.6 percent in Snowmass Village, while it was up in Aspen to the tune of 12 percent.

asalvail@aspentimes.com