Today marks last big tourism weekend

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Steamboat lodges will be busy tonight for the last big push of the ski season.

With Easter Sunday falling early this year, resort officials expect winter tourism to taper off after the middle of the coming week.

"That's exactly what we expect to see," said Scott Stanfill, guest services manager of the Hampton Inn. His property on U.S. Highway 40 still will be almost 70 percent full Tuesday. However, early reservations at the 68-suite property will be at 40 percent by next weekend.

Greg Koehler of Rabbit Ears Motel in downtown Steamboat foresees the same.

"The extra snow generated a few calls for us, but for me, after this weekend, it drops off pretty dramatically," Koehler said.

Steamboat lodging properties still will be rocking tonight, with the lodging barometer produced by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association indicating more than 11,600 visitors staying here. Steamboat's mountain hotels, which depend heavily on group business, are lagging a little bit -- they expect to be 77 percent full, compared with 86 percent on the same weekend last winter. However, mountain condominiums will be 85 percent full tonight compared with just 61 percent on the corresponding Saturday last year.

Stanfill said the Hampton Inn had the busiest winter of its short history.

"This will be our best year in our 4.5 years, by far," Stanfill said.

Koehler said his landmark motel had a winter that ranged between "mediocre and good."

"It certainly wasn't a record, but we had a good year," Koeh--ler said.

Although Steam--boat had good skiing if not powder conditions most of the winter, Koehler said his guests pay close attention to snow totals.

"We get a lot of people from the Front Range and Wyoming," he said. "I tell them this is one of the best times of year to ski, but if you don't have that big base, it's hard to convince them."

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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