Strong end to a strange winter for Aspen-Snowmass |

Strong end to a strange winter for Aspen-Snowmass

Lodging occupancy improved in late winter and momentum carries into summer

People enjoy the sunshine of a summer day in Aspen on Monday, July 20, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A rollercoaster winter ended up with overall occupancy at 42.2 percent for the Aspen-Snowmass Village lodging industry, according to the latest report from Aspen Skiing Co. and its central reservations business.

That total was down from 47.7 percent occupancy for the 2019-20 winter. The loss was less than expected in a pandemic-ravaged winter filled with uncertainty.

Ski season opened with high levels of COVID-19 cases nationally and locally and a lot of questions over what the winter would bring. International travel, one of Skico’s bread-and-butter markets, was essentially snuffed for the season.

“Sales and marketing efforts pivoted towards driving more domestic visitation than ever in an attempt to fill in the holes left by the absence of key international feeder markets and groups,” said the occupancy report from Kristi Kavanaugh, Skico’s vice president of sales, and Lise Adams, director of Stay Aspen Snowmass.

Cancellations were a problem throughout the winter as COVID cases surged and restrictions increased.

“To offer some perspective, Stay Aspen Snowmass booked 8% more bookings, but canceled over 200% more than a typical year,” the occupancy report said.

Winter business started turning around in February and ended strong in April, when occupancy was about 33 percent. Aspen properties collectively experienced their second-best April ever. Snowmass Village properties experienced their fourth-best April.

“A strong way to end a strange winter,” the occupancy report said.

Aspen-Snowmass appears to have suffered worse than many other resorts, according to a report by DestiMetrics, which tracks lodging performance in resort destinations for a company called Inntopia.

Western mountain destinations finished the season by “pulling a proverbial rabbit out of the hat” and ended up with more room nights than the prior winter, which was cut short in March because of the pandemic, DestiMetric’s report said. Cumulative occupancy at the resorts the company monitors was up 4.8 percent over 2019-20. Aggregated average daily rates were down 9.4 percent so revenues were down for the lodging industry.

“While in the end lodging fell short of a full recovery from the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the year-end summary was far ‘less bad’ than projected at the start of the season, and as recently as 45 days ago,” DestiMetrics said in its report.

As expected, this winter’s occupancy was a disaster compared to pre-COVID business. Occupancy was down 18.3 percent compared to 2018-19, according to DestiMetrics.

Nevertheless, the momentum from the end of ski season is expected to carry over into summer.

“All metrics point to summer being quite busy here in Aspen Snowmass and around the country,” the local occupancy report said. “We have 29.9% occupancy on the books, outpacing last summer’s 10.1% by 196%. To give some perspective against 2019, we had 28.2% occupancy on the books by the end of April 2019 for summer 2019.”

July is currently shaping up as the busiest, with occupancy at 52.2 percent, the report said.

DestiMetrics said the bigger picture at western mountain resorts shows occupancy for this summer is up 90.4 percent compared to this point last year but down 4.7 percent compared to two years ago. Average daily rates and revenues are expected to post gains over two years ago.

“Occupancy is surging for the coming summer and the months of July, August and September are already pacing ahead of two years ago at this time,” DestiMetric’s report said. “Summer daily rates are rising significantly compared to last year and two years ago as pent-up demand is meeting with pent-up dollars due to stimulus payments and the highest level of savings in more than 40 years.”