Steamboat Springs Visitors who intended to leave Steamboat Springs before the first of the year had good reason to reconsider their vacation plans Wednesday.
The Steamboat Ski Area reported more than 18 inches of new snow at mid-mountain from a storm that moved into the area Tuesday and continued into Wednesday.
Local hotels reported many guests chose to stay another day to take advantage of powder conditions on the mountain. Other hotels saw some extended stays when guests decided not to travel in the snowstorm.
"Let's just put it this way," said Keith Eddy, assistant general manager of the Comfort Inn. "The snow has actually kept people from leaving."
Eddy said a few visitors at the Comfort Inn booked another night because they did not want to risk driving home in the heavy snowfall.
The additional snow bodes well for lodging numbers this weekend. The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expects about 10,700 guests in town Saturday with 70 percent of rooms filled.
That's down 7 percent from last year. About 11,650 guests were in town during the first weekend of 2002.
But hotels are optimistic the recent dumping will lure more people to Steamboat this weekend.
"If it snows, they will come," said Scott Stanfill, night manager at the Steamboat Grand Hotel.
The holiday season has given the Steamboat Grand good bookings through the weekend, he said.
"With the additional snowfall, we have seen a spike in calls," Stanfill said.
He said it could mean as much as a 5 to 15 percent boost in occupancy.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association projects 67 percent occupancy of mountain hotels and 78 percent occupancy of mountain condos this weekend.
Stanfill said the New Year's snow accounted for 93 to 95 percent occupancy at the Steamboat Grand Wednesday night.
"We're in very good shape all of a sudden," he said.
That number will fall to about 80 percent this weekend, he said, but walk-ins could increase guest numbers.
"It will probably go up," he said.
People have been inclined to stay longer for two reasons, Stanfill said. They were forced to stay because of the inclement weather, or they made a conscious decision to stay because of the skiing conditions the inclement weather promised, he said.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expects guests to fill 39 percent of downtown hotel rooms.
Maria Latek of the Alpiner Lodge in downtown Steamboat said reservations have booked up many of her rooms for the weekend.
"We are pretty full," she said.
The snow did not hamper any of her guests who wanted to leave, she said, and it brought in several walk-ins.
Hotels along U.S. 40 are expected to be about two-thirds full by Saturday.
Eddy said rooms are gradually filling up for the weekend.
A weekend hockey tournament should bring in a few more people, he said.
"We're getting there," Eddy said.
The weather prompted a few people to extend their condo stays, but it wasn't much of an issue for those who wanted to leave the Yampa Valley, said Larry Mashaw, vice president of marketing at Mountain Resorts.
Mountain Resorts sits at 97 percent occupancy, he said, so if people wanted to extend their stays, they didn't have a lot of room to do it in. "We are pretty well booked up," he said.
Projections for mountain condos are strong through next week. College Ski Week begins this Saturday.
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