Regional news: Summit County winter lodging numbers up and down

Kailyn Lamb
The Hampton Inn and Suites just finished its second winter season in Silverthorne after opening in December of 2015. February was the strongest month for the hotel.
Kailyn Lamb / |

The winter season in Summit County started slow, with barely a flake of snow in November. In December the snow finally came by the pound burying the county and its ski resorts well into January. After that, the skies were dry again, leaving the resorts to survive on the masses of snow built over the previous months.

The up-and-down season made for strange numbers within the lodging industry in Summit. For many organizations, the numbers followed the snow with occupancy hitting peak numbers in February.

According to DestiMetrics, a Denver-based lodging analytics firm, revenue was up by 6.8 percent collectively across the Western Slope compared to last season, but occupancy scraped by only 0.3 percent ahead.

But Barb Richard, the marketing manager at Summit Resort Groups, said that just to beat last season’s numbers was quite a feat in and of itself.

“Last year was a phenomenal year, but you have to remember, neither coast had snow and we did, that makes all the difference in the world,” she said. “The one thing about Summit County is even if it doesn’t snow, we have snow. That’s always been the lucky thing and I’m amazed at how far those big storms carried us through.”

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Richard said Summit Resort Groups had strong months in January and March, with both February and April falling behind. But Richard again said that it was hard to compare this April to last year because it was a particularly strong month in an already strong season. In Breckenridge, the town fell behind by 4 percent in occupancy rates with February coming in as the strongest month, according to Breckenridge Tourism Office public relations manager, Austyn Dineen. Part of this was because, in addition to the lack of snow early on in the season, holiday schedules also made an impact on lodging numbers. Both the Christmas and Easter holidays made changes to school schedules, which caused breaks to fall later in the season.

The town of Dillon also saw a spike in revenue from lodging. Carri McDonnell, the town’s finance director, said that sales tax revenue for lodging was up by 37 percent in February and that year-to-date lodging through then was also up 26.5 percent. Some of this was due to efforts from the town to ensure that people have the proper licensing to collect taxes on VRBO and Airbnb listings.

“The amount of snow we had in December and January definitely reflected the additional people in town,” McDonnell said.

The Hampton Inn & Suites in Silverthorne finished its second winter season after opening in December 2015. Denver-based Silverwest Hotels operates the Hampton through a franchise agreement with Hilton. Ed Mace, the president and CEO of Silverwest, said that February was the biggest month, but that the hotel also continued to do well into April. He said that the mix of different business in both the county and in Silverthorne helps to protect hotels.

“The market had a little bit of a roller-coaster effect because of the pattern of the snow,” Mace said. “There’s a growing mountain economy that’s not as dependent on ski as it once was.”

Despite a lack of fresh snow in the latter half of the season, many of the lodging companies here did not see cancellations.

Richard said that one of the most surprising trends for lodging in the coming months is that Summit Resort Groups is already beginning to see bookings coming in for the 2017-18 ski season, particularly for peak travel dates.

“People are realizing that there’s not unlimited choices, so if you wait too long you have to choose the less desirable unit,” she said.

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