Visitors keep pouring in

Strong season expected to continue into the weekend

— Visitors continue to flock to Steamboat Springs this winter, and this weekend will be no exception.

The number of tourists expected to stay in Steamboat tonight outpaces the number of visitors who called Steamboat home on the corresponding Saturday last year.

The Lodging Barometer produced by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association predicts that 13,500 guests will spend tonight in Steamboat. That's 700 more than the number of guests who stayed here Feb. 26, 2005.

Visitorship is expected to increase despite projections for hotels near the base of Steamboat Ski Area that predict 5 percent less occupancy tonight than they experienced last year. Mountain-area hotels are projecting 85 percent occupancy tonight. The hotels tend to be dependent on group business. Mountain condominiums are offsetting the slight dip in mountain hotel occupancy -- they're up 8 percent from last year to 92 percent occupancy. Overall, Steamboat lodging properties will be 89 percent occupied tonight.

A snowy winter should receive only a little credit for the busy tourist season, said Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

"There's a couple of things at play," Evans Hall said Friday when discussing reasons for the strong tourist presence this winter. "The national economy and consumer spending is up all the way around, and we're seeing that at all ski resorts."

Additional flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport also have played a significant role in driving up tourist numbers, Evans Hall said.

"That continues to be one of the key reasons people choose Steamboat over other areas -- the ease and convenience of getting here. They don't have the long drive or the traffic, and they don't have to change planes."

Families also are attracted to the Yampa Valley because of its family-friendly programs, especially at Steamboat Ski Area, Evans Hall said. Having little or no snow would affect tourism, but having lots of snow isn't typically responsible for increased visitors to the region, Evans Hall said.

Although Wednesday's occupancy rates won't come close to matching today's, the percent growth over last year is noteworthy. The Chamber anticipates that at least 11,700 people will be in town Wednesday. That's up 2,200 from last year, an increase of 23 percent.

An early look at next Saturday reveals that tourist numbers will likely surpass the 13,000 mark again March 4.

This week marks the 14th week of the ski season. Historical patterns suggest the resort will see another three weeks of strong tourism before the destination ski season begins to wind down.

Arrivals at Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Thursday surpassed 1,000 passengers, and the arriving planes were more than 90 percent full.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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