Tourism high this weekend

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Property management companies in Steamboat Springs are flush this week with business that rivals Christmas season, yet it may be an uphill charge to match last year's numbers.

"I think March is probably going to be ahead of last March," Barb Shipley of Johnston Shipley management said. "My March is going to be up 15 percent, but last March wasn't as strong as the year before."

When the ski season is over, Shipley said she hopes to be even with last year.

"I think it will be a struggle for some companies to match last year," Shipley said. "The lodging business revenue the last five years is probably off 10 to 20 percent. But Steamboat is doing as well as anybody in Colorado this winter."

The Lodging Barometer kept by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association projected Steamboat would see 13,500 visitors March 17, compared with 11,600 for the corresponding Wednesday last winter. However, the barometer and history suggest that Steamboat's season probably has peaked. Saturday's overall occupancy is expected to be 78 percent with 11,700 people in town.

Mountain hotels are expected to be 80 percent full Saturday night, and mountain condos will be 77 percent full. Downtown lodging properties are expected to be 84 percent full. That compares to just 43 percent full on the corresponding Saturday in 2003.

Although peak visitation may have been charted, the barometer projects that tourists will track about 500 ahead of last year through March 27.

"By March 28, we're wide open," Shipley said. "We're empty. Hopefully, with more snow, we'll have a strong late season."

Shipley's company manages more than 30 Storm Meadows units and 40 units nearby at The Ridge.

Although her company is relatively small, she has been watching ski seasons unfold for 17 years. Today, with more lodging rooms competing for flat volumes of vacationing skiers, Shipley said, property managers enjoy just two or three weeks of maxed-out business. Fifteen years ago, they might have seen six or seven weeks of full condominiums.

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