Steamboat Springs Winter resort towns are conflicted about snowfall patterns.
Towns like Steamboat Springs pray for tons of snow, but please God, not too much on our airport, or on airports in key destination cities, on the Saturday of Presidents Day Weekend.
Assuming the ice storm along the Eastern Seaboard doesn’t undermine the holiday weekend, Steamboat is likely to play host to more than 16,000 people Saturday night at the peak of the Presidents Day ski party. If it comes to pass, Lord willing, it will mark the last big peak of ski season 2013-14 with spring break still to come in March. But already, Delta Airlines flight 880 from Atlanta was pre-canceled on Thursday due to weather in Atlanta.
Larry Mashaw, vice president of sales and marketing for Resort Group, said his company’s Mountain Resorts Division manages 550 vacation condominiums here, and by this part of the season, most of the business is in hand for that lodging sector.
“By mid-February, the condominium market is 90 percent of the way in terms of dollars," Mashaw said. “We’ll have a good March, but they’ll be shorter stays. We aren’t as apt to see the five- and six-day stays of February. But our strong snow message and all of the Olympic messaging out there can extend our sales season because people are watching winter sports at night.”
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association projected Wednesday that 15,687 people would spend Saturday night here, and based on the fact that last weekend’s visitation grew by 400 people beyond the lodging barometer projection, 16,000 appears to be a reasonable goal. That’s especially so given the fact that the barometer does not take into account the friends, family and second homeowners who will show up as Valentine’s Day rolls into George Washington’s birthday party.
If the 16,000 skiers and riders materialize, recent history tells us they will represent the last big surge of the season. That was the case on the 13th week of the ski season in 2013 when the Chamber’s follow-up poll shows that 14,500 actually spent the corresponding Saturday in Steamboat. In, 2012, when the snow report was relatively anemic compared to Friday morning’s bullish 73-inch base at mid-mountain, Steamboat’s lodging properties were 68 percent full compared to this week’s projected 97 percent occupancy.
Snow and the wintry mix falling in North Carolina and New Jersey Thursday could also prove to be the wild card in Steamboat’s Presidents Day weekend.
As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration was reporting that Newark International Airport, N.J., had placed a hold on flights bound for its runways due to snow and ice. It was a similar situation at Logan International in Boston, Mass., and Charlotte International in North Carolina.
The National Weather Service was forecasting a 60 percent chance of snow in Newark Saturday, amounting to one to two inches during the day when United Airlines is scheduled to operate its one flight of the week to Steamboat from the New York metro area on an Airbus 140 to 150-passenger Airbus 320.
Other key airports for Steamboat and Yampa Valley Regional Airport, including Chicago O/Hare, Houston, Dallas and Minneapolis, were all seeing delays of just 15 minutes or less on departures and arrivals Thursday afternoon.
The National Weather Service was forecasting that YVRA would see a slight chance of rain and snow before 8 a.m. Saturday, the heaviest travel day of the weekend.
Steamboat Ski Area was reporting season snowfall totals of 270 inches at mid-mountain and 300.5 inches at the summit.
And Scott Marr, owner of the Holiday Inn Steamboat said Steamboat’s enviable snow conditions are definitely fueling the resort’s robust winter. His property was oversold Friday through Sunday until his staff placed guests at other properties.
“The snow story has just been great,” Marr said. “And I think we probably are working our way through an improving economy. People have been adjusting to the new normal for so long, it’s not bugging them as much as it used to.”
Marr said his property enjoyed a very strong January.
“We actually were up 24 percent January 2014 over January 2014, and about half of it was increased occupancy and half increases in our rates,” Marr said.
A big piece of the Holiday Inn Steamboat’s business comprises Front Range residents who drive to Steamboat Springs. Marr said Feb. 21 and 22 also look very strong and the first half of March looks good, but the outlook for the second half of next month is still unknown.
The late Easter Sunday, falling on April 20 this year, has focused public school spring breaks into the second week in March. But April will pull some March business into the final two weeks of the ski season if only because Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is also late this year.
Mashaw said he does not rely on the Chamber lodging barometer to gauge business and prefers to look at the city’s lodging sales tax reports for the true story.
January figures have not been released yet, but December was up 14.7 percent (reflecting revenues). It would be too much to expect similar revenue growth for January, Mashaw said, but occupancy rates at mountain condos were up each Saturday in January by 5 to 9 percent.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1