Weekend lodging occupancy near max

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— The winter tourism season is nearing the peak of spring break, with 14,400 visitors expected to spend Saturday night in Steamboat Springs lodging properties. There are signs the peak will last for at least another week.

"We're pretty much rock 'em, soc 'em from Saturday right through Easter Sunday," said Mike Lomas, vice president and general manager of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. "We're north of 90 percent (occupancy) through the week. We've seen that coming for a long time."

Yampa Valley Regional Airport was modestly busy Thursday, with 1,115 arriving passengers. In aggregate, arriving flights were 83 percent full. The NASTAR National Ski Championships at the Steamboat Ski Area today through Sunday are expected to bring at least 1,100 competitive skiers to town, not to mention their families and friends.

The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates that visitation will remain strong into the middle of the coming week, with just as many spring skiers here Wednesday. That would make March 19 the busiest Wednesday of the ski season thus far.

Steamboat's lodging properties will be 96 percent full Saturday night and 96 percent full Wednesday night. Mountain hotels such as the Steamboat Grand are expected to be 97 percent full Saturday night. That compares favorably to the corresponding Saturday in 2007, when they were 85 percent full. Steamboat saw 11,500 guests on St. Patrick's Day 2007, yielding an overall occupancy rate of 77 percent.

Business at the Grand during the coming week will be a mix of independent travelers and people who own intervals in the hotel's condominium-style units.

Easter comes unusually early this year - March 23 - and Lomas said business would taper off a little after Easter Sunday, but not by much.

The early forecast for March 22 anticipates an occupancy of 82 percent, yielding 12,300 lodgers. There were 13,100 visitors on the corresponding Saturday last year.

However, Lomas said group business would keep Steamboat busy beyond March.

"We have solid group bookings at the end of March and for the first four or five days of April," Lomas said.

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