Lodging barometer strong

Turkey Day business up 30 percent despite limited skiing

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— The limited opening weekend at the Steamboat Ski Area isn't reflected in resort motels and condominiums this weekend.

The Lodging Barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates 3,900 visitors will be staying in Steamboat lodging properties tonight. That's up 30 percent over Nov. 26, 2005.

One property management executive said this week that most of the December business is already on the books, and last week's steady call volume in his reservation center was all about 2007.

"We had a strong week last week, and we picked up a lot of February business," said Bob Milne, president of Steamboat Resorts.

Still, the snowstorm forecasted to arrive late Monday may have to deliver for the resort to match last season's early December occupancy rates.

The winter tourism season got off to a fast start in 2005 after twin late November snowstorms delivered 7 feet of credibility to Steamboat's marketing claims.

Statistics kept by the Chamber show the Steamboat lodging community achieved 80 percent occupancy by the second Saturday of the season in 2005. It took four weeks to hit the same milestone in 2004, despite good snow conditions that winter.

If Steamboat picks up more December business in the next couple of weeks, it will probably be because the resort gains an advantage in snow conditions, Milne said.

"It's a tight holiday season," Milne said. "We have some room - in (Dec.) 15, out (Dec.) 22 - but anything we pick up now is going to be snow-driven. At this point, people are going to shop around and look for where the snow is."

Milne takes it as a very good sign that his reservations center is handling heavy traffic for February right now.

"I'm encouraged," Milne said. "We're pacing ahead of last year and last year was a good year. Last week, February was number one and January was number two. March and December were a distant third. We're telling our owners we've got a good book of business here."

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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