Tourist levels to drop soon

But predicted snowstorm could keep some vacationers in town

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About 14,300 tourists were in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday, but many of them will be departing soon, dropping occupancy levels at area lodging properties from 95 percent to about 60 percent Saturday, according the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's lodging barometer.

About 9,000 visitors are expected in Steamboat on Saturday, according to the lodging barometer, which is an informal survey of lodging facilities in Steamboat.

The barometer projects occupancy levels of mountain hotels to fall from 94 percent Wednesday to 59 percent Saturday and 51 percent next Wednesday. Mountain condominium occupancy is projected to drop from 93 percent Wednesday to 58 percent Saturday but jump up to 83 percent next Wednesday.

Mountain-area condos have led the way in the past few weeks in terms of occupancy, compared to hotels and other lodging properties.

"We are absolutely, fully booked and trying to find more properties," said Fred Luhme, owner of property management group Mountain Castles Inc., which deals primarily in high-end condos and rental houses. "We won't have any openings for a while."

But mountain hotels are doing fine, also.

"We're jammin' up here," said Ben Franko, assistant general manager of the Ptarmigan Inn. "This week has been just smoking since Christmas, but things will probably quiet down after New Year's weekend."

The percentages of mountain hotel and condo occupancy levels for the coming week are lower than the comparable week last year, however. Only downtown lodging indicates an increase over last year's numbers, projecting that rooms will be 65 percent full this Saturday, compared with 39 percent on the comparable Saturday last year.

Representatives of downtown hotels haven't seemed to notice, though. A representative of the Rabbit Ears Motel said weekend bookings were few, but the predicted snowstorm could cause some tourists to extend their reservations.

After a weekend lull after New Year's visitors leave, occupancy levels are expected to rise again next Wednesday to about 10,400 during the season's second College Ski Week.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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