Skier Glen Traylor walks along the promenade at the base of Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday afternoon. The recent dry weather has taken a toll on lodging numbers.

Photo by John F. Russell

Skier Glen Traylor walks along the promenade at the base of Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday afternoon. The recent dry weather has taken a toll on lodging numbers.

Lack of natural snow hurts lodging reservations in Steamboat Springs

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— The dearth of snow in Steamboat Springs and across Colorado's mountain resort communities is taking a bite out of lodging numbers. And although it’s still very early in the ski season, when a longtime repeat customer cancels a reservation for the holidays, it can’t help but sting.

Greg Koehler, owner of the Rabbit Ears Motel in downtown Steamboat, said Thursday that he lost three reservations this week and that one of them was for a 10-day stay at his landmark lodging property at the east entrance to downtown, right across U.S. Highway 40 from Old Town Hot Springs.

“I had a few (cancellations) on Monday I was surprised at,” Koehler said. “They were actually around Christmas and New Year's. My sense is that they decided to do something else.”

The cancellation that stood out was the 10-day reservation by a guest who comes to Steamboat every winter and summer.

“It was a tough one,” Koehler acknowledged. “I try to surpass their expectations so that once I have them coming here, they keep coming back.”

Holiday Inn of Steamboat Springs owner Scott Marr said he is aware that people calling his reservations staff are sensitive to the snow report, but they haven’t been changing plans for the holidays so far.

“We have people calling and asking what the weather’s going to be like,” Marr said. “People are definitely asking questions. I took the AccuWeather report and transferred it over to the front desk this morning. It looks like there are some storms coming in mid-December. I’m not aware of any cancellations.”

The lodging barometer, published every Wednesday by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to guide its members in staffing levels, anticipates 2,600 visitors will spend the night here Saturday compared to the forecast for Dec. 3, 2011, that projected 3,700 people in town. The actual visitation numbers for the second week of ski season last year climbed to 4,400 with late arrivals.

The Chamber expects to see 1,600 guests in town Wednesday, a sign that winter vacations are kicking in with college breaks.

Steamboat also picked up a good number of late arrivals for Thanksgiving week this year. The barometer forecast Saturday sleepovers of 2,600 people, but 600 additional overnight guests showed up to work off their turkey dinners.

If the same happened this week, there would be enough tourists in town to fill only 21 percent of available pillows in the bed base.

Koehler said that although early ski season guests help out, they don’t represent a large factor in his overall ski season numbers.

“Honestly, I’ve never been that busy in the first two weeks of ski season,” Koehler said. “We need the snow to send a message: ‘Plan your ski vacation. Don’t give up on us. Things can change dramatically overnight.’”

Marr said after a down October and November, his business will begin picking up Dec. 16, and the Holiday Inn will be very busy Dec. 27.

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

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