Steamboat catches a big spring break with last-minute reservations
Condos, hotels, restaurants fill up, but a late Easter puts April tourism in flux
Steamboat Springs — The winter tourism season here closed in on a late peak Wednesday with mountain condominiums as full as they have been all winter and restaurants running waiting lists. Although there are positive signs that March will roar right until the end, April business remains in doubt.
“We keep thinking that the phones will quiet down, but the number of last-minute reservations has kept us busy and we are seeing good pick-ups in occupancy even during the last week of March,” Steamboat Resorts principal Bob Milne said. “It’s encouraging to end the season on such a positive note. April bookings have not really materialized for us yet.”
The Lodging Barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association on March 9 forecast that 11,400 people would spend the night in area lodges and hotels Wednesday night with condos at the ski hill leading the way at 93 percent occupancy. That figure surpasses the 87 percent occupancy seen during the Music Fest at Steamboat on Saturday, Jan. 9.
It was readily apparent in downtown Steamboat on Tuesday night that Steamboat’s restaurants were benefitting from spring break.
Dan Emert, an owner/manager at the Ore House at Pine Grove restaurant between downtown and the mountain, said his independent steak house was at capacity and then some this week.
“It’s difficult to describe what’s going on right now. By the time we open the door, we’re almost booked,” Emert said. “This was a big week last year, but this year it’s almost a Christmas-sized crowd. We’re completely booked every night. We’re very happy.”
The Lodging Barometer predicted that tourism would remain unusually strong into the middle of this week with overall occupancy at more than 82 percent, including mountain hotels and U.S. Highway 40 motels. However, occupancy dips to 9,000 forecasted visitors by Saturday.
Milne, whose company manages several thousand guest rooms, said spontaneous vacationers helped Steamboat fill up this week.
“The snow conditions, the timing of spring breaks (around the country) being compressed into March and the last-minute bookings have all set up in our favor,” Milne said.
Reservation patterns from the past three years suggest that the third weekend in March marks the last peak of the ski season, with tourism levels stair-stepping down until the ski area closes April 10. But for now, large numbers of airline passengers still were arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. Tuesday is typically the quietest day of the week at the airport, but March 15 saw 725 arriving passengers compared with 669 departures. The airplanes arriving at YVRA averaged 70 percent occupancy. Passenger arrivals slipped to 674 on Wednesday, still strong for midweek, compared with 779 departures.
The wild card hanging over the rest of ski season is an unusually late Easter that pulled some school spring breaks out of the month of April. Easter Sunday is on April 24 this year. Many school districts opt to move their spring breaks into March when Easter falls so late into April.
“We have not been able to generate much momentum for April, but you never know,” Milne said. “Thirty days ago, March was not looking as strong as it is now, so we plan on working it right up to the end.”
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