Discounts help western ski resorts boost occupancy |

Discounts help western ski resorts boost occupancy

Steve Raabe
The Denver Post
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyA pair of snowboarders make powder turns through the trees on Vail Mountain this season

Western ski resorts eked out a 1.3 percent gain in guest occupancy this season, although it came at the cost of inducing visitors with cheaper room rates, according to a report released Tuesday.

The small occupancy increase suggests that resorts have weathered the worst of the recession and that “a positive trend has now been established,” said report author Ralf Garrison of the Mountain Travel Research Program.

But Garrison cautioned that the apparent recovery is fragile and could still be derailed if the broader national economy falters.

To boost occupancy, ski resorts and hotel operators discounted room rates. The average nightly rate during the November-through-March winter season dropped from $305 a year ago to $288 this year.

The report is based on a survey of 260 lodging properties in 15 mountain resorts in the western U.S. The survey includes all of Colorado’s major resorts.

Hotel and condo occupancies were weak early in the ski season but showed improvement in January, February and March compared with the same months last year.

“We are already looking ahead to the 2010-11 ski season with cautious optimism,” Garrison said.

Colorado Ski Country USA reported last month that skier visits through February at 22 member resorts were down 2 percent compared with the prior year.

In a separate report released Tuesday by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, Colorado ski-resort hotel occupancy in the first quarter of 2010 was 63.2 percent, compared with 62 percent in the same period of 2009.

The average room rate at ski-area hotels was $259, compared with $270 last year.

Metro Denver hotels had average occupancy of 55.3 percent and room rates of $101 in the first quarter, compared with 52.3 percent and $105 a year earlier.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948 or

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