Stay Aspen Snowmass report: Low snow starting to eat into bookings
LOOKING FOR TURN AROUND
The Aspen Water Plant received less snow in November than initially suggested in preliminary data.
The water plant recorded 6.8 inches of snow for the month, according to the final report. A preliminary report placed snowfall at 10.8 inches.
Average snowfall for the month is 21.8 inches.
It was the fourth lowest snowfall amount for November on the books back to 1934-35, according to the water department’s records. No snow fell in November 1957.
Aspen managed to pick up less than 6 inches so far in December, but snow is forecast for Thursday and frigid temperatures both day and night will allow snowmaking through the weekend.
AspenWeather.net, a micro-forecaster for the upper Roaring Fork Valley, forecasted 3 to 5 inches of snowfall overnight on Thursday and additional snowfall Friday and Saturday.
Aspen and Snowmass are experiencing the wrong kind of flurry this month.
Lodges in the two resorts are starting to experience cancellations of reservations due to the lack of snow, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency.
“We have certainly seen a noticeable recent slowdown at Stay Aspen Snowmass, along with a flurry of cancellations — mostly related to very close-in arrivals,” Tomcich wrote in his latest monthly occupancy report released Monday.
Tomcich couldn’t be reached Monday for elaboration on a “flurry” of cancellations.
In addition, the phones aren’t ringing as frequently as desired from travelers booking trips later in the season, though that could turn around when the snow flies.
“There’s no denying the fact that the recent dry spell has started to take a toll on business, and we have seen some related cancellations,” Tomcich wrote in his report. “But eventually, the weather always changes, and so do stubborn patterns like the one we have found ourselves in the past several weeks.”
Roaring Fork Valley skiers and businesses hope it changes sooner rather than later. The snowpack on Independence Pass was 46 percent of median Monday. Schofield Pass, at the headwaters of the Crystal and Gunnison rivers and typically one of the snowiest spots in Colorado, was at 63 percent of median snowpack.
Colorado ski areas have some of the lowest amounts of terrain open in years for this point in the season.
Though the low snow is starting to eat into business, it hasn’t erased modest gains in occupancy levels over last season, so far.
Aspen’s paid occupancy of 28.1 percent for November was up 8.8 percent over last season, Tomcich reported. Snowmass reported a paid occupancy of 11.9 percent in November, up 5.6 percent from last year.
The business on the books for December as of Nov. 30 also was encouraging.
“December was pacing just a fraction ahead of last year in both Aspen and Snowmass for the month overall,” Tomcich said in his report. “But I’m sure it would not come as a surprise if those numbers have slipped relative to last year since.”
This week will be “considerably quieter” than it was last year but occupancy will start climbing steadily starting Wednesday and continuing for 10 days, according to Tomcich. Occupancy will hit a peak above 90 percent full starting Dec. 28.
“Beyond that, occupancy is pacing ahead of last year through not only New Year’s weekend but through the entire first full week of January,” Tomcich wrote.
Many schools are taking less time off prior to Christmas and more time off after New Year’s Day with the holidays falling on Monday, he observed.
Sources in tourist accommodations previously said they expected the holiday period to remain busy despite low snowfall amounts. People will stick to holiday plans, and they would find it difficult to cancel their reservations at this point.
In the bigger picture, cumulative bookings at 20 mountain destination resorts in the west are running ahead of last year’s pace as of Nov. 30, according to Innotopia, which tracks lodging performance. However, December bookings declined, indicating that travelers might be taking a wait-and-see approach and judging closer to their trips.
“Looking forward, occupancy for the full winter season from November through April is up 2.8 percent with increases in five of the six months with only December declining,” Innotopia wrote in its DestiMetrics Market Briefing released Monday.
November and April show the strongest increase. January, February and March are essentially flat with last season, the report said.
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The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday it is starting review of Pitkin County’s proposal for a trail between Redstone and McClure Pass. The process will include two chances at public comment.