Steamboat holiday crowds to peak next week

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— The city of Steamboat Springs’ population is set to more than double Wednesday as holiday skiers continue to stream into the resort.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association lodging barometer projected that 13,200 people would spend the night here on the Wednesday after Christmas. The city’s population as of the 2010 census was 12,088.

There’s still time for impulsive Front Range travelers to act on the fresh snowfall and book a room in Steamboat; the barometer shows that the 13,200 guests will occupy 84 percent of the resort’s bed base.

Resort Group Vice President Mark Walker said holiday business has been solidly in place for a long time.

“The week right after Christmas, we’ve known for months would be very good,” Walker said. “It’s going to translate into some nice (average daily room rates).”

However, he said the scarcity of natural snow this month has slowed the pace of reservations for the balance of the ski season.

The habits of holiday travelers fluctuate with the day of the week Christmas Day falls on, and with Dec. 25 on a Sunday this year, the lodging barometer reflects that substantial numbers of vacationers are delaying their trips to allow them to celebrate the holiday at home.

The Chamber expects more than 8,500 people (down from 8,700 forecast in 2010) to spend Saturday night here. Last year’s actual number was 9,000 guests.

After years of discounting lodging rates through a recessionary economy, Moving Mountains Chalets President Robin Craigen said the rates the lodging properties he manages are able to get this holiday season are turning up. He is co-owner of Moving Mountains with his wife, Heather.

“For (this) week, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in rates across all of our properties and a 30 percent rate increase for New Year’s week,” Craigen said.

Moving Mountains specializes in luxury properties and manages 22 private homes and 20 condominiums, a number of them in the newer slopeside projects at Edgemont and One Steamboat Place.

Craigen told Steamboat Today in January 2010 that a penthouse at One Steamboat Place was renting for $2,690 a night for a seven-night stay.

So, 20 and 30 percent rate bumps in that luxury market are significant.

Craigen said that the acceptance of luxury vacation properties here signals that the perception of Steamboat as a triple-A resort has survived the economic downturn and that the resort’s reputation for a high level of service is intact. He credited that customer perception to the entire resort.

“It’s that shift we’ve been waiting for,” Craigen said. “It confirms that Steamboat offers a better experience and better service. We’ve filled a gap.”

Walker said that despite the robust week ahead in the resort economy, the high-pressure system that has dominated the weather scene in Northern Colorado has created a challenge in terms of filling out the rest of the ski season.

“Our phone volume has slowed drastically in the last two weeks,” Walker said. “It all comes down to the snow message and consumer confidence.”

Is there time for Steamboat to recover from the subpar snowfall in the first three weeks of December?

“I believe we can due to the trends in this day and age when people book vacations closer in,” Walker said. “Anything’s possible.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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