Bookings for ski vacations running ahead of schedule |

Bookings for ski vacations running ahead of schedule

— Lodging properties are reporting an increase in advance bookings of Steamboat ski vacations.

The pace of reservations is consistent with an increase in airline seats booked.

“I have been doing this for 20 years and this is one of the best years we have had,” said Bob Milne, owner of Steamboat Resorts.

His company manages 19 properties and rents 875 units.

The number of reservations made so far this year is up an average of 20 percent compared to the same time last year. The phone volume in the reservations department is up 30 percent.

“I hope this pace will keep up,” Milne said.

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He said a more realistic goal would be a 10 percent increase in reservations over last ski season.

Reservations around holidays are typically strong, but Milne said this year is different because bookings are consistent throughout the season. March reservations are strong, which is unusual, and large group bookings make January a strong month.

Besides the fast pace of reservations, Milne said the average length of stay is up. He said visitors who rented from Steamboat Resorts last year stayed for 5.5 days. This year, the average is 5.7 days, he said.

“That’s an industry trend that we are seeing,” Milne said. “People are going to be coming here for a longer amount of time and that’s a good thing.”

The pace is also strong at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Reservations really picked up Thursday after an overnight storm dumped 7 inches at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.

“The phones really picked up today,” said Jennifer Austin, director of revenue for the resort, which has 315 hotel rooms and condominiums. “A woman from Oklahoma called this morning and said ‘I hear you are getting all this snow.'”

Reservations are up between 10 and 20 percent compared to last year, Austin said.

“That does not necessarily mean there will be more people,” she said. “They’re just booking earlier.”

So far, 85 percent of total bookings they expect for December have been made, for January, 63 percent, February, 50 percent and March, 30 percent. Those numbers do not include group reservations.

Austin said the Sheraton would like to see more bookings for the Christmas holidays.

Last year Christmas fell on a Sunday and there was a heavy demand for units the week before and after Christmas. This year, people seem to be planning their holiday

vacations primarily for the week of Christmas, which is on a Monday this year.

At the 36-unit Snowflower Condominiums, reservations are running about 20 percent above last year.

“Last winter was good, but this winter is looking good also,” said Snowflower Manager Keith Skytta. “Guests are looking for value. The trend is definitely early bookings get discounts.”

Skytta said there is some strong momentum and carryover from a good snow season last year, but the national economy and accessibility to Steamboat are the two biggest factors.

Milne agreed.

“When you have a good snow year, people will come and say ‘this is great’ and then book early next year,” said Milne, who said there also is a strong pace at properties he manages in Vail and Beaver Creek.

Milne said the increase in flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport “has certainly helped as well.”

With the recent announced addition of a non-stop flight into New York’s La Guardia Airport on Saturdays, there are more than 156,000 seats available for the winter season flights, a record for Steamboat. The number of booked passengers is up 7.8 percent over last year and 20 percent ahead of two years ago.

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