Summer in Snowmass felt busy, busy, busy. Data shows it actually was. |

Summer in Snowmass felt busy, busy, busy. Data shows it actually was.

More consistent occupancy stats, part-time resident presence likely factors in summer rush

Mountain bikers and sightseers flocked to the Elk Camp area Oct. 3 at Snowmass Resort for the last day of lift-served summer service. The resort is scheduled to open Nov. 25 for the 2021-22 ski season.
David Krause / Snowmass Sun

Take a look at the Snowmass Village summer occupancy charts of a few years back and you’re bound to see peaks and troughs, with busy weekends that passed the 90% occupancy mark and definitively quiet weekdays that sometimes dipped under 20%.

In tourism director Rose Abello’s eyes, “it really looked like an EKG,” she said in an interview. And heartbeat patterns, while good for humans, aren’t the strongest signs of vitality when it comes to resort town visitation stats.

It’s been a goal for years to level out those summer occupancy charts and “fill the troughs” in summer occupancy statistics with a boost in weekday visitation, Abello said.

Abello can now consider that a mission accomplished, according to data presented to Snowmass Village Town Council on Oct. 18 and to the Marketing, Group Sales and Special Events Board on Oct. 15. This year’s late-season chart looks a lot more like an arc than a series of spikes; there are still a few notable dips, but they’re showing up later in the season.

“We did it,” she said — “we,” in this case, referring not to the tourism department but to the entire village community, including the restaurants and hotels that feed and support those visitors.

That filling of the troughs could be one of the reasons this summer seemed as busy as it did in the village, Abello said. Events like the Snowmass Rodeo and Thursday night concert series on Fanny Hill logged notably strong numbers all season, and it turns out that hotel occupancy shook out well, too.

A large crowd enjoys the music by Pandas & People during the first Thursday night Fanny Hill Concert in Snowmass Village of the summer on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Paid occupancy rates for the months of June (47%), July (76%), August (61%) and September (56%) were all significantly higher than they were in the pandemic summer of 2020 — no surprise there.

Even so, the monthly averages were otherwise relatively on par with stats from 2018 and 2019, according to charts generated by the occupancy tracking software DestiMetrics. And the numbers still pale in comparison to a typical, non-COVID winter, when the peak months of January, February and March all average in the 70% to 80% occupancy range.

The difference, Abello said, is that this year the visitation was more consistent throughout the week.

“We had some random Tuesday when we’re in the 90s, and that is a game-changer that is actually what we’ve been after since I’ve been here, certainly,” Abello said. “And I say ‘we’ as the big, big community. … We (the tourism department) are just part of a machine.”

Crunching the numbers

The “smoothing” in visitation could also be one of many factors that contributed to significantly higher lodging revenue for hotels and the subsequent spike in lodging tax revenue for the town, Rose Abello said.

Lodging tax in July jumped more than 70%, ringing in at roughly $208,000 in 2021 compared to $121,000 in 2020. In August, a 44% increase brought in nearly $153,000 in 2021 compared to $106,000 in 2020.

The average daily room rate is another factor in that jump; more revenue doesn’t necessarily mean more heads in beds so much as the heads willing to pay more to stay in those beds.

The boost in revenues would be significant even compared to non-COVID years, when July lodging tax usually lands right between $100,000 and $150,000 and August lodging tax tends to track just over $100,000.

Abello noted that it’s small potatoes compared to typical winters, when the busiest months in the busiest years have neared the $500,000 mark.

Abello also noted that there may have been more presence from part-time residents this summer who might otherwise only pop in for a couple of weeks during the season; those numbers aren’t tracked in lodging stats, but anecdotal evidence about pandemic work-from-home provisions suggests that it was easier for part-timers to stick around longer in Snowmass because they didn’t have to return to the office at the end of their vacations.

So what does it all mean for the future of summers in Snowmass? Will next year feel as busy as this one?

Abello isn’t so sure about that.

“I am hesitant to claim that this is like the new normal, and this is the way it is going forward,” Abello said. “I think we are still in a very big time of transition.”

And it’s hard to tell what that transition will mean in the next months, seasons and years, she said.

“We don’t know where the shift is going to happen next,” she said. “And what I mean by that is, are we going to go back to 100% of how we were in our lifestyle, pursuits, our requirements at the offices, the amount of free time we get? … Is society going go back there? Is it going to take a whole degree turn to the right and say OK, now that people can work remotely they can do that all the time? Or is it going to be somewhere in the middle? And I think most people would say it’s going to be somewhere in the middle.”


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