Photo by John F. Russell
Ski Haus employee Greg Jansen helps, from left, Alexis Aquirre, Ann Ghent and Meg Ryan with snowshoeing gear Tuesday afternoon. The extended family members were visiting Steamboat Springs for a getaway from several areas of the country.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Steamboat Springs Holiday ski vacationers will begin an exodus from Steamboat during the weekend, but tourism will rebound immediately as fans of the long sold-out MusicFest at Steamboat kick off the New Year with twanging Fender Telecasters.
“A lot of folks will leave us on Saturday,” said Mike Lomas, The Steamboat Grand general manager and vice president. “We’ll have Sunday to clean our house because Monday, here they come.”
The weekly Lodging Barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates 9,200 visitors will spend Saturday night here, down about 475 from the corresponding Saturday in 2009. However, the tourism levels are expected to bounce up to 13,188 by Wednesday (compared with 13,998 a year ago) as the MusicFest at Steamboat takes hold. The festival attracts disciples of the Texas flavor of Americana music for an annual ski rendezvous in Steamboat.
More than 30 bands are scheduled to perform from Monday to Jan. 9, including recording artists Robert Earl Keen, The Randy Rogers Band, The Band of Heathens, Reckless Kelly, Charlie Robison and Lee Ann Womack. Also returning is crossover country star Jack Ingram, who played a blazing outdoor set in a dense snowstorm one year ago. The large majority of the performances are not public. Ingram and the Doug Moreland Show will perform an outdoor show in Gondola Square shortly after 1:15 p.m. Jan. 8.
Lomas said MusicFest has built a strong bridge between holiday business and independent travelers who come to Steamboat for long weekends built around Martin Luther King Jr. Day in mid-January.
“MusicFest brings a wide range of music lovers,” Lomas said. “They’re not college kids.”
MusicFest travelers were offered package trips to Steamboat including lodging, four ski lift tickets and a festival pass beginning at about $400 per person, double occupancy. A package including a room with a king-size bed at The Steamboat Grand could be had for $970 per person. A similar package at the Holiday Inn was quoted at $589 per person.
Lomas said a travel/tour company called Travel Associates books the packages on behalf of Dickson Productions, which runs MusicFest. Travel Associates takes on a block of 100 rooms at the Grand for MusicFest. The package rate is sold on a contract basis.
“We tell them what we have to get for the rooms, and they put the package together from there,” Lomas said. “We don’t give away the room.”
Three years ago, he said, his hotel could get as much as $500 a night for a room at the book rate.
“We’re not getting that now,” Lomas said. “Our rates are like the airlines” — constantly changing.
The daily flight report issued by the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. on Wednesday reflected that the trend has turned over and more people were departing than were arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. Arriving flights, as a whole, were 67 percent full with 800 people on board. Outbound flights were more crowded — 1,052 passengers at a load factor of 88 percent.
One United Express flight from Denver on Wednesday morning was canceled because of low clouds at the airport in Hayden, and a United flight from Chicago was delayed for the same reason.
Looking a little further into the future, the new seasonal lodging forecast that is continually updated by the Chamber and Ski Corp. indicates the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend Jan. 14 to 18 should be busier than past two years.
Unlike the Lodging Barometer, the seasonal forecast attempts to also measure tourism that doesn’t involve a reservation at a lodging property, including second homeowners and guests of Steamboat residents and second-home owners.