About 9,200 tourists expected

Weekend could bring twice as many visitors as this time last year

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Almost twice as many visitors are expected in Steamboat Springs this weekend compared with the same time last year.

The chamber's lodging barometer predicts that 9,200 people will be in town, up by almost 4,000 people from this time last year. Across the board, from mountain condos to downtown hotels, the percentage of occupied pillows is higher than what was forecast last year.

Last year, 5,500 people were expected to be in town for the weekend preceding July 4.

Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Executive Director Sandy Evans-Hall said one of the reasons for the increase is that July Fourth falls on a Friday this year. For the past few years, when the holiday fell on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, pillow counts were low on the weekends but picked up on the weekdays, she said.

But while a Friday Independence Day will boost weekend pillow counts, visitor numbers are expected to be down midweek from last year. Wednesday's total number of pillows is forecast at 4,600, compared with 8,000 on the Wednesday before July 4 last year.

Over the July Fourth weekend, Saturday is forecast to have 9,400 pillows compared with 10,200 during the 2002 July Fourth weekend. However, more lodging reservations are expected to come before the holiday weekend.

Scott Campbell, director of sales at Steamboat Resorts, said those along the Front Range are more likely to drive beyond the Interstate 70 resort towns such as Vail and Breckenridge and make the trip to Steamboat when they have a three-day holiday weekend.

"That makes all the difference in the world along the Front Range. It is an easier product to sell," Campbell said.

Helen Chamneff, who works at the front desk of the Rabbit Ears Motel, said the motel is close to capacity this weekend and has already been filled for the July Fourth weekend. At the Comfort Inn on U.S. Highway 40, Director of Sales Michael Watt said next Saturday is down but Thursday and Friday look strong. Right now, occupancy has doubled from last year during the weekdays, he said. He attributes the increase to people driving through Steamboat on their way to other destinations. In the past few days, he said about 10 to 15 travelers stopped at the hotel on their way to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Utah.

Another reason for the marked increase this weekend is a change in the Triple Crown tournament. Evans-Hall said that over this weekend in 2002, Triple Crown held a three-on-three soccer tournament, which brings in fewer people than the 100-team baseball tournament going on this weekend.

The city should see a continued pick up in tourism. The three-day Independence Day weekend will be followed by Rainbow Weekend, July 11-13. The week after that is the Mountain Soccer Tournament, a tournament sponsored locally that brings in teams from across the country.

"We are starting to head into the busy season," Evans-Hall said.

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