Colorado’s mountain towns are on track to see record winter travel

A 2 Below Zero sleigh ride on the edge of Frisco, Colo. Feb. 25, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A 2 Below Zero sleigh ride on the edge of Frisco, Colo. Feb. 25, 2021.

Colorado's mountain towns will likely be packed for the holidays. 

Lodging in the state’s resort communities is already 80 percent booked for the week following Christmas — one of the busiest periods of the year, according to DestiMetrics, a platform run by Inntopia, a travel marketing firm. That’s up 20 percent from the same time last year, the data show.

The numbers seem to predict a near-record holiday travel season, said Tom Foley, senior vice president with Inntopia.

“Consumers are really back on board this year with bookings, at least, as of this stage,” Foley said.

Colorado’s hospitality business is set to boom this winter after last year’s season was thrown off by a surge in COVID-19 cases. The infection rate in Colorado — and across the U.S. — is on the upswing again, but the widespread availability of vaccines will hopefully blunt the impact.

The state’s tourism office is making a push for international travelers this ski season now that the borders have been reopened to people with proof of vaccination. 

Inntopia’s Foley said it’s still too early to say whether overseas tourists are contributing to early bookings. Places like Aspen and Vail will be the first to feel a bump from international visitors, he said.

Lodging rates have been surging since the beginning of this year, and that trend isn’t showing signs of slowing down. 

The average rate for a room in the state’s mountain towns is up about 35 percent compared to pre-pandemic rates, according to Foley. A big part of that jump is because the pandemic pushed travelers to rent larger units with private space, which cost more than a standard hotel room.

At the same time, a lot of people ratcheted back on recreational spending, giving them extra cash to spend once they felt comfortable traveling again, Foley said.  

“When vaccinations started to pick up and baby boomers started booking again,” Foley said. “Rates went crazy.”