Steamboat Springs Christmas Day could be the best day for local skiers and riders to get in some holiday skiing as destination vacationers take their time getting to the slopes of Mount Werner.
The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association anticipates 8,700 visitors in town Christmas night for an overall occupancy rate of 63 percent. Tourism ramps up to 11,900 on Wednesday before falling back to 8,300 on New Year’s night.
Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall said the holiday arrivals would really begin to kick in after Christmas.
“Most people will be coming in Sunday and Monday, when the airline numbers will be huge,” she said. “We expect that most of the airline flights will be full. We’re just praying for that weather window so everyone can get here.”
Although the Wednesday lodging figures are ahead of the corresponding days in 2009, it’s plain that Steamboat’s holiday business will fall shy of the numbers achieved in 2006 and 2007, when Steamboat was virtually booked solid with 14,500 and 14,700 guests on the second Saturday night of the holiday period, according to past lodging barometers.
Resort officials know that the day of the week Christmas falls on has a significant impact on holiday travelers’ plans. Christmas fell on a Friday in 2009, allowing families to open gifts and carve the roast beast at home before heading to the airport Saturday, when Steamboat has its biggest airline capacity.
Saturday night’s 8,700 visitors are enough to make mountain hotels 75 percent full and mountain condos 62 percent full. The condos are expected to be 87 percent full Wednesday, up from 82 percent on the corresponding Wednesday last year.
The 8,300 people who will recover from New Year’s Eve here Jan. 1 are 500 more than skied between bowl games here in 2009. Some of the most robust occupancy next week will be at the mountain hotels.
Mike Lomas, vice president and general manager of The Steamboat Grand, said his hotel would be 100 percent occupied by Tuesday.
“It will stay that way through the 31st, and then we’ll turn around and get ready for the Music Fest,” Lomas said.
Janet Fischer, airline program director for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said arriving flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were collectively about 81 percent full and carrying 877 passengers.
Operations at the airport had returned to normal Wednesday after two consecutive days when a few flights were canceled or delayed because of low cloud ceilings here that made it difficult for the airplanes to land. Direct flights from Atlanta and Minneapolis were on time Wednesday, as was the first arrival of the day from Denver at 12:43 p.m.
The only major delay of the day was the largest aircraft on the schedule, a 188-passenger American Airlines Boeing 757 from Dallas that was due in at 1 p.m. but was at least three hours behind schedule while the crew and passengers waited for a plane.
Sylvia Walker, who worked at the visitor information desk at YVRA on Tuesday and Wednesday, said she heard of virtually no luggage problems those days.
Go Alpine taxi owner Lisa Adamo said her company has arranged to lease a couple of 50-passenger buses for two days during the holidays to augment capacity between YVRA and Denver International Airport.
Go Alpine runs back and forth to DIA four times a day. The schedule calls for one vehicle, up to 29 passengers, per scheduled round trip, Adamo said, but her company has been adding one or two vehicles per scheduled trip to pick up people who may have missed flights or saw their flight canceled as well as to meet general demand.
“Everybody here is excited for the holidays, and we’re busy,” Adamo said. “That’s going to continue through the first part of January.”
Evans Hall said resort property managers agreed during a Lodging Committee meeting Tuesday to extend their front desk hours to meet the needs of late-arriving travelers.
“We want to get them in their beds and make them comfortable as soon as possible,” she said.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail email@example.com