Tourists pack Steamboat

About 14,300 guests expected to arrive for New Year's Eve

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About 13,700 tourists are expected to be staying in Steamboat Springs today, the same number as the corresponding Saturday last year, according to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's lodging barometer.

Wednesday, however, will mark a dramatic increase over 2002 numbers. Almost 3,000 more visitors are expected to be in Steamboat on New Year's Eve this year: 14,300 compared with 11,500 in 2002.

Kathy Coates, membership director at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, credited the increase in tourism to the combination of Steamboat having more snow than any other resort in Colorado and the fact that more people are comfortable traveling.

"I think the combination works well," Coates said. "People have made their plans earlier than usual. I think there is a crowd that will (look at snowfall in Colorado) and make future plans based on that, but the national news this morning said snow is coming to Colorado. We can't buy advertising that good."

The chamber's lodging barometer, an informal survey, projects Saturday's mountain hotel occupancy to be at 91 percent, mountain condos at 93 percent and downtown lodging at 71 percent.

Wednesday, the numbers will jump to 94 percent for mountain hotels, 98 percent for mountain condos and 77 percent downtown.

Steamboat Resorts marketing director Tim Johnson said many of the group's vacation destinations are booked from now until the first couple of days of 2004.

"Things are very full," Johnson said. "We're almost at capacity over the weekend, so it will be interesting to see if we get any more last-minute bookings out of the Front Range. Right now, we're as good as anybody in the state, which keeps the phones ringing for us."

Representatives from the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Steamboat Grand also reported occupancy levels ranging from 80 percent to 100 percent for next week.

"It's been a better year than the last several years over the holidays," said Joan Morrison, director of sales and marketing for the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. "For the most part, we're virtually sold out. We're still seeing last-minute requests, and unfortunately, we're having to turn some away, which is supposed to be a good problem to have, but we don't like turning people away. But, overall, we're very excited about this holiday season."

Hotel and resort managers expect many visitors will stay for the holiday weekend and depart soon after New Year's Day. Projected occupancy levels for Jan. 6 drop to about 50 percent across the board.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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