Steamboat No. 1 for July 4

Ski Town USA is Colorado's top tourist destination this weekend

— Steamboat Springs is the top destination for Coloradans this weekend, according to AAA Colorado.

Ski Town USA beat out other top Colorado destinations such as Denver, Colorado Springs, Montrose and Aspen.

"It just goes to show that Steamboat Springs is a desirable destination, and we need to do our best to make sure they have a good time so they come back next year," said Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association spokeswoman Riley Polumbus.

The research also shows that travel by Coloradans is up 29 percent from last year despite gas prices, which are up an average of 67 cents a gallon from a year ago.

"The Fourth is always a gauge of how summer is going. And, as you can see, it's going very well in Colorado," AAA spokeswoman Alexa Gromko said.

"It shows that they're not willing to give up their summer vacations, she said. "They'll cut costs in other places."

According to the association, hotel bookings are down 6 percent, and car rentals are down 41 percent compared with last year. Vacationers likely are staying with their families and friends or driving their own cars to help keep costs down, Gromko said.

Although many Colorado travelers are packing up their cars for more affordable roadtrips, AAA has noticed an increase in those traveling by sea.

Cruises booked through AAA Colorado increased by 62 percent for the weekend and by 78 percent for the holiday week.

Gromko said that with the holiday falling in the middle of the week, people are more likely to take an extended vacation.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Let's take a five-day weekend,' or, 'Let's take the entire week off,'" she said.

The association analyzes travel booking made by its 480,000 Colorado members to rank in-state destinations, Gromko said. Last year, Steamboat ranked sixth behind mountain destinations such as Durango and Glenwood Springs.

"Steamboat is always a popular destination," Gromko said. "People go there specifically because they love Steamboat, and it has some specific and unique attractions."

The Lodging Barometer, published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, predicts that 11,100 people will check into area lodges and hotels Saturday. That's up 500 from July 2, 2005.

The barometer indicates 9,600 people will visit Steamboat Springs for Rainbow Weekend, which is July 8 and 9. That number is similar to Rainbow Weekend last year.

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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