Tourists cast Steamboat ballot

Presidents Day weekend promises to be packed

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— During the weekend before Presidents Day one could anticipate tourists to converge upon Steamboat Springs and this holiday weekend is expected to follow suit.

Managers of hotels and condominiums near the ski area are reporting strong numbers for the weekend.

However, reservations for downtown lodges are not as strong.

The weekly lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association forecasts that 13,603 visitors will check into local lodging properties by Friday night.

That compares to 13,180 the barometer forecast for the corresponding Saturday in 2001.

The chamber's lodging barometer is not a complete survey. It is a sample survey taken of various resorts and hotels near the ski area and in downtown.

The barometer is used as a guideline by retail businesses in Steamboat Springs. The gauge gives retailers and restaurant managers an idea of how much staffing they might need and or food they might want on hand.

The barometer is forecasting condominiums near the mountain to be 92 percent full, which is higher than last year's projection of 87 percent.

"This is always a busy weekend," said Renea Cowman, president of Colorado Resort Services. "This weekend is shaping up very nicely."

Cowman said many of the company's 265 condominium units are occupied this weekend.

"Right now, we have very little to offer," she said.

Cowman said the business has not seen the drop in business that was projected after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Things are much better than we first thought," Cowman said. "Things have picked up rather nicely."

Hotels at or near the mountain are also projected to have a strong weekend.

The barometer is forecasting mountain hotels will be 91 percent full, which is slightly lower than last year's projection of 93 percent.

The Best Western Ptarmigan Inn is not having any trouble selling out this weekend, said Rhonda Graham, the inn's sale and project coordinator.

"We will have pretty high occupancy this weekend," Graham said. "We are definitely sold out Saturday night."

Graham said business has been positive in February, especially on the weekends.

"March is also looking really good right now," she said.

Although lodging near the mountain has been strong, lodging downtown has been lagging.

The barometer is forecasting 66 percent of downtown lodging will be full, which is lower than last year's projected 88 percent.

The Rabbit Ears Motel will be one downtown lodge that is expected to be full this weekend.

"We are pretty much sold out for the weekend," said Greg Koehler, general manager of the motel. "The rest of the week also looks strong."

Koehler said business in January was slightly lower than January 2001.

"Things are finally coming around," he said. "February is looking great, and March is looking pretty good."

Visitors seem to be booking vacations at the last possible moment, Koehler and Cowman said.

"This winter has been an eye-opening experience," Koehler said. "We got a call earlier this week for a seven-day stay and they wanted it to start that day.

"We are training our customers to wait as long as possible to get the best rates."

Cowman agrees.

"We have been getting a lot of last-minute reservations," she said. "It has been keeping us busy.

"We are also thankful for all the wonderful snow we have been getting."

The barometer also is projecting next weekend will be strong.

Preliminary projections for Feb. 23 show 12,907 visitors to Steamboat, which is higher than the corresponding Saturday from a year ago that projected 11,366 visitors.

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