Winter weather staging a return to Steamboat just ahead of late spring break families |

Winter weather staging a return to Steamboat just ahead of late spring break families

— Families headed to Steamboat Springs for spring break will be a little late this year, and the powder forecast suggests they will be rewarded for their tardiness.

Larry Mashaw, vice president and marketing for Resort Group, one of Steamboat's biggest lodging companies, said Friday that the peak of spring break is at least a week late this season.

"No doubt about it," Mashaw said. "Arrivals for the ninth and 23rd (of March) are much stronger than for the week of the 16th. The other thing I've noticed is that arrivals beginning the 23rd have longer lengths of stay, which means more destination skiers."

The reason?

Spring break is later than usual this year at large public school districts in cities where Steamboat's direct flight program has a major presence.

“With Easter early this year (March 31), we're seeing many schools' breaks either the last week of March or going into the first week of April,” Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane wrote in an email. “This year's early Easter seems to have spread out school breaks, with those breaks starting as early as this week and carrying into early April.”

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Now, the snow is coming right ahead of most spring break families.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz, of, said all of the forecast models he follows point toward a stormy period from Wednesday to March 24.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a special weather statement Friday and warned against complacency on the part of travelers with a mix of rain and snow Saturday expected to give way to a significant storm at midday Sunday thanks to a cold front that will bring 4 to 8 inches of fresh snow at higher elevations.

The specific forecast for Steamboat Springs at 6,701 feet in elevation Sunday calls for a 50 percent chance of rain mixed with snow and a high of 49 degrees. That could be followed by mostly sunny conditions Monday and Tuesday, with the chance for snow returning Wednesday.

March winds up with strong tourism

Ralf Garrison, of the Mountain Travel Research Program, issued a statement Friday saying consistent snowfall in the West combined with a robust stock market helped the 16 resorts his company tracks (including Steamboat) achieve a 14.2 percent increase in lodging occupancy in February, with on-the-books occupancy for March up almost 10 percent. However, a slow start to December 2012 will drag down season-ending totals for the combined mountain resorts. Occupancy for the 16 resorts was up 6 percent for the six months from September 2012 through February.

The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association on Wednesday predicted 9,900 guests would spend the night here Saturday. That's up from the projected 9,000 on the same Saturday in 2012 and down from last weekend, when 10,600 visitors were expected to be in Steamboat on March 9 and 11,300 actually showed up.

The lodging barometer suggests that most winter seasons have entered a steady decline in tourism numbers by this date.

Mashaw said that although 98 percent of Steamboat's destination tourism for the ski season already is in the books, the resort should feel relatively busy through March 30. After that, destination tourism will be weaker than in past Aprils.

"The fill-in for April is really soft," he said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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