Occupancy counts down at western mountain resorts | SierraSun.com

Occupancy counts down at western mountain resorts

Meager snowfall totals in January led to lower occupancy counts at western mountain resorts and, locally, in Truckee.

But a surge in fresh powder at the end of February and beginning of March could prove beneficial to hoteliers provided the snow hits the ground at the right time.

"My March is going to be strong. The snow helps, but I have several large groups booked," said Patty Baird, who co-owns the Cedar House Sport Hotel on Brockway Road in Truckee with her husband, Jeff.

Baird said January and February were soft months for the sport hotel, something she attributed to subpar snowfall, the alignment of holidays, and Airbnb.

"It's just what I sense," said Baird, who has operated the 40-room hotel with her husband since it opened in May 2006.

The meager snowfall in January was felt throughout the western mountain region, with aggregated occupancy for January down 4.4 percent when compared with the same period a year ago.

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At the same time, the average daily rate for western mountain resorts surged 7.3 percent. Additionally, bookings made in January for arrivals from January through June were down 15.4 percent.

The data reflects occupancy and revenue among 20 participating destination communities in eight western states, which consist of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Innotopia, a Vermont-based business intelligence company, which acquired DestiMetrics last year, released the results in its monthly Market Briefing.

"Occupancy has moved from being up slightly in November to essentially flat in December to measurably down as of Jan. 31 for the first year-over-year decline in winter season occupancy since 2011-12," Tom Foley, vice president of Business Intelligence for Innotopia, said in a statement.

"And while some much-needed snow has arrived at many destinations since this data was collected, and some whiplash swings on Wall Street have changed the narrative in recent days, we're concentrating on January performance in this report."

To that extent, Squaw Valley had a solid opening month to the year and continues to see strong bookings.

"The Village at Squaw Valley lodging bookings remain quite healthy, with sold out back to back weekends this holiday period and strong midweek reservations," said Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Public Relations Director Liesl Hepburn.

The market briefing also touched on several key points, most notably that average daily rate gains were smaller than they were 30 days ago, but are still holding at a level slightly above last year.

However, aggregated revenue is moving down more quickly as the average daily rates and occupancy continue to slide.

"The majority of long-distance destination visitors, who book well in advance and spend more money while on vacation, have mostly made their plans for the remainder of the season and we're not expecting a lot of change in those numbers," Foley said.

"But there is both opportunity and challenge for the remainder of the season for destinations as they work to attract regional visitors who operate on a shorter booking schedule; respond to snowfall and slope conditions more immediately; and are more competitive to capture.

"What we do know is that weather and economic indicators both still have the chance to influence the outcome of the ski season."

Nevada Appeal staff writer Kelsie Longerbeam contributed to this report. Managing Editor Wyatt Haupt Jr. can be reached at 530-550-2652 or via email at whaupt@truckeesun.com.