Balloons blow into Steamboat

Rainbow Weekend will bring tourists to town

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— Rainbow Weekend will be busy, but probably not quite as busy a tourism weekend as the July 4 holiday. Local resort officials expect more than 10,400 people in town Saturday night.

More than 11,700 people spent the night in Steamboat guest rooms on the Saturday night of Rainbow Weekend 2001.

Some local lodging properties are already sold out for this weekend.

"Basically, I'm sold out every weekend in July. This is where we make it or break it, because by the middle of August, it's over." Keith Skytta said.

Skytta is the general manager of Snowflower condominiums at the base of the ski area gondola. His property has 200 pillows available for short-term rental.

Skytta said Steamboat will see a lot of family trade this weekend mom and pop and a couple of kids, most of them beginning their trip on Colorado's Front Range.

An increasing number of Skytta's guests are calling to escape the heat of the city, and they are aware that the Yampa Valley has been relatively untouched by wildfire so far this summer.

"They know exactly what's going in this part of the state," Skytta said. "We do get comments from people who come over the pass and say, 'Gee, it's so green here. How come?' But try and market that."

The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Art in the Park scheduled for this weekend probably won't pack town as solidly as the Fourth of July did. That's according to an informal survey of lodging properties conducted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The Chamber's lodging barometer predicts local lodging properties will be 69 percent full this weekend.

But those numbers could still go higher based on last week's experience. Chamber Executive Vice-President Sandy Evans Hall said her staff called lodging properties back early this week to see how their actual experience compared to forecasts for the spread out holiday of July 4 week.

"What we saw is a lot of walk-ins," Evans-Hall said. "We had about a 12 percent increase over the forecast."

The chamber had predicted local lodging properties would be 53 percent full on July 3 and the actual number was closer to 66 percent.

The actual number sampled for July 6 bumped up to 78 percent compared to 67 percent forecasted in the barometer on July 3.

The biggest day of the week was July 4, when town was 90 percent full.

"That translates into 13,000 to 14,000 people," Evans-Hall said. Add the impact of camping into the July 4 weekend, and the actual number of visitors was probably even higher, she said.

The lodging base in Steamboat includes 18,917 pillows, compared to 17,603 last year, according to the Chamber.

Weekends have been a sellout at the Holiday Inn ever since the middle of June, General Manager Barbara Robinson said.

The Holiday's 82 rooms are sold out this Friday and Saturday. Advance bookings for Thursday and Sunday are at about 80 percent.

Robinson said about 40 percent of her room nights last weekend were attributable to the String Cheese Incident music festival and her property had a good experience with festival-goers.

Looking ahead, the weekend of July 20-21 has a chance to be another near-capacity weekend. Already on Wednesday, the third week in July was 80 percent booked by people arriving for the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament.

"Those youth soccer teams and their families book well in advance," Evans-Hall said.

One of the advantages of the soccer tournament is the business is spread very evenly among all categories of lodging properties, she added.

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