Lodging at 85 percent; many expected in town

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— A crew from a helicopter service helping to fight one of three area forest fires found there was no room at the inn Thursday morning.

It may have been a common scenario around town as Steamboat prepares to entertain about 13,000 people this weekend. That's enough people to fill 85 percent of the local bed base, according to the lodging barometer released by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Most of the guests weren't in town to fight wildfires but instead to participate in and watch the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament. Greg Koehler, owner of the Rabbit Ears Motel, said he was able to provide eight rooms for firefighters after a soccer team canceled its reservation. But he didn't have the 11 rooms needed by the people from the helicopter service.

"They're up here serving an important function," Koehler said. "As of right now, we're sold out for the weekend."

Steamboat saw 13,620 people in town over the corresponding Saturday in 2001. The lodging barometer is not a scientific survey but an informal poll that samples key lodging properties.

Among the different categories of lodging, downtown motels like Koehler's were expected to have the highest vacancies this weekend. They were forecast to be 77 percent full as a group. Mountain condos were projected to be 89 percent full.

Steamboat will stay busy through the week; the lodging barometer expects 10,320 people to stay overnight Wednesday. Already, the barometer foresees 11,910 visitors July 27, when Triple Crown returns.

Koehler said overall, his property has not been as busy this summer as last. However, he said most of that drop-off is attributable to soft June reservations.

"We've certainly seen more John Q. Public walk-in business in July," Koehler said. "It took longer to get started this year."

Koehler said his motel will be busy for the rest of the summer.

Steamboat has 18,917 rental pillows available, an increase of 1,300 from last summer, according to the chamber.

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