February bookings strong for Aspen, Snowmass despite lack of snowfall
The mild winter isn’t derailing a hot February for the lodging industry in Aspen and Snowmass Village, according to a central bookings agency.
Paid occupancies for Aspen in February as of Jan. 31 were up 8 percent in Aspen and 11 percent in Snowmass Village, according to a report from Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich to the upper valley lodging industry.
“There now isn’t a single weak spot to be identified in either Aspen or Snowmass for the entire month of February,” Tomcich wrote in his report.
Tomcich said in an interview that he is unaware of people trying to cancel their lodging reservations. While the cancellation policy varies from property to property, it’s an industry standard to require 30 days notice, he said. Financial penalties are stiffer the closer to the travel time up to the 30 days.
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said no noticeable amount of customers have asked for refunds on lift tickets because of snow conditions. The ski slopes have remained covered and the groomers remain in good shape at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass despite the lack of new snow. Snowmass received 13 inches of snow for all of January.
“Guests seem to be very happy and out on the hill,” said Rich Burkely, Skico vice president of mountain operations. “We’ve had very positive feedback from our guests and our numbers are doing really well.”
Tomcich acknowledged that people calling the central reservations office are inquisitive about conditions.
“Everybody’s asking how the snow is,” he said. “They just want some personal testimonials about the snow.”
He said he instructed his staff “to be honest” with prospective guests. They discuss the lack of recent snow but stress that conditions are holding up. The conditions aren’t any better throughout the western U.S. than they are in Aspen and Snowmass, he said. The bookings agents also talk to customers about prospects for a changing weather pattern that is forecast to bring colder temperatures and possibly snow to the Roaring Fork Valley next week.
Skico has been able to keep more than 5,000 acres of terrain open at its four ski areas. Burkley said some gated terrain hasn’t been open much this season, but Skico hasn’t been forced to close any trails, to his knowledge. But he acknowledged that more snow will be essential, and soon.
“I don’t think we could do this for another month,” he said.
Tim Clark, managing partner of Frias Properties of Aspen, said the winter has been strong for the company, which manages hundreds of condominiums and lodging units in and near Aspen’s core. Overall pacing of bookings is ahead of last season for each month from November through April, he said.
The company’s dollar volume from reservations was higher than last season for three of the past four weeks, indicating that snow conditions haven’t had an impact.
“We have not experienced cancellations for lodging accommodations as a result of the snow conditions,” Clark wrote in an email. “Moreover, guests-in-residence are pleased with the sunshine, warm temperatures and the great groomers. Guests and staff have been commenting on how good the mountains are skiing at this time as the snowcat drivers are doing a commendable job on the hill.”
Clark said there are no red flags regarding the rest of February and March. Rental revenue on the books for both months are strong compared with last season, he said.
The pace of bookings for the remainder of the season has slowed compared with this time last season, according to Tomcich, but it is “right in line” with the three-year average. March bookings look “good with pronounced holes,” he said.
Aspen Skiing Co. and the lodging community are trying to fill the holes in March by expanding special deals. The Perfect Storm package was extended an additional week and is now good until March 21, Tomcich said. The package features a free day of lift tickets, equipment rentals and lodging with a minimum purchase of a four-day package.
The Kids Stay and Ski Free package also was extended to include more of March, he said. It is good from March 1 to April 5.
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As a parent of elementary school kids, Britta Gustafson is not sure she agrees with the Aspen School District’s decision to throw caution to the wind and send kids back to in-person learning full time.