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Skiing: Winter reservations up in Breckenridge

Lodging community recaps strong summer performance

Winter reservations in Breckenridge are pacing ahead of last winter.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Tourism in the high country continues to climb back from the deep  recession, with the Breckenridge Chamber reporting that 2012 summer occupancy and average room rates both climbed in tandem for the first time since 2008.

For now, Breckenridge is outpacing some other resorts in terms of winter reservations, 16 percent ahead of last year at this time, according to Scott Fortner, marketing director for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

Fortner said the encouraging trend can partly be attributed to the town’s status as a mature resort that offers plenty of activities along with skiing and snowboarding. Group business has also been increasing, which helps push occupancy rates up, he said.

Those same factors helped the town make a decent showing last winter during one of the worst snow droughts in recent memory. In the past, a winter like last year could have resulted in a significant drop in occupancy and revenue, he said.

The Breckenridge lodging sector has also been nimble in adapting to the challenges by offering special incentives to spur early reservations, he added.

But he acknowledged that the pace of calls has slowed in the past few weeks, as skiers watch the skies for signs of winter. Other factors affecting reservations include an economy that’s still perceived as shaky, as well as gas prices.

While mid-December hasn’t booked solid yet, Fortner said he expects that, with the Dew Tour coming to town, the pre-Christmas week will end up strong.

A recent roundtable with lodging managers in town showed solid gains in lodging during most of the summer, with the exception of August with the biggest increases coming during September and October, up 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Overall summer occupancy (May through October) was up 12 percent.

More visitors translated into more money spent in town. Some individual merchants  reported all-time records during the summer, as the high country served as a refuge from a brutal heat wave.

Retail and restaurant taxes both showed growth  from May through September, with double digit gains in May, June, July and September. Oktoberfest Saturday was the highest single night occupancy all summer, showing that events can help driving overnight visits.

The town has also been successful in driving more extended visits, with the average length of summer stays increasing 10 percent. For winter reservations already on the books, the average length of stay is up 8 percent.

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