Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs visitors probably won't have to elbow each other out of the way to snag a room this weekend.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's weekly occupancy forecast projects that 56 percent of Steamboat's rooms will be taken Saturday night. The percentage amounts to 8,300 people, compared with the 12,900 expected to show up for the comparable night in 2008. The actual number for that evening came to 13,100, or 88 percent occupancy.
Sandy Evans Hall, Chamber executive vice president, was unavailable to comment about the figures Wednesday. She has said visitors are booking closer to their trip dates and that the lodging forecast doesn't capture those last-minute arrivals.
This year, the Chamber is releasing projections a week in advance. Saturday's numbers have crept up. The Dec. 17 lodging barometer stated that properties were expected to be 47 percent full this weekend, which amounts to 7,000 visitors. In last week's barometer, that number increased to 54 percent, or 8,100 people.
The forecast released Wednesday indicated mountain hotels and condos would be 51 percent and 56 percent full, respectively. Downtown and "other lodging" numbers also are listed, but Evans Hall said in December that the focus and the weight of the survey are on properties near Steamboat Ski Area.
"Those are the ones you want to see full," she said. "Those are the majority of the lodging."
Jamie McAnally, general manager at the Highmark hotel, said his property saw a busy Christmas week but a slowdown from early to mid-January. The hotel at AprÃs Ski Way and Village Drive has about two dozen two-, three- and four-bedroom suites.
"This being our first season, we didn't have a lot of history to go from," McAnally said. "In speaking with Steamboat Central Reservations and some of our other barometers, it appeared bookings would be down, and they were. We don't have a whole lot of inventory, so we were expecting to be busy last week, and we were. We certainly have rooms available this coming week."
There are 17,281 total rental pillows in town, Evans Hall said last month. Base-area hotels, condos and lodges make up 9,600 of that total. Non-base-area properties that are within walking distance of the ski area account for another 7,000, she said, meaning 16,600 of the 17,281 pillows are at or near the mountain. The rest of the properties in the survey are more than three miles from the base or downtown.
Although Saturday's numbers slipped, occupancy for Wednesday is expected to hit 81 percent, or 12,100 pillows. Numbers were forecast to dip again Jan. 10, to 52 percent occupancy, or 7,800 pillows.
McAnally said he expected to see improvement.
"Toward the middle of the month, it starts to pick up, and into February is looking better," he said. "As always, if the snow falls, that's the main generator for businesses up here."