BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – After record snowfall last year it is a much drier story in the mountains this year, but it hasn’t driven away the visitors — there are actually more visitors this year so far than last.

A Denver-based research company says across the western U.S. ski destinations are seeing a 10 percent jump in hotel occupancies as 2011 came to a close.

“Given the difference in snowfall this year over last year, we’re really pleased to be seeing those numbers pacing flat or slightly ahead of where they were at the same time last year,” Rachael Zerowin with the Breckenridge Resort Chamber said.

Experts say last year’s snow got some people to book vacations early no matter what the snow was going to be like this year.

“I planned this trip about a month and half ago,” Valerie Grimba from New York said. “It’s been fantastic so far.”

Miguel Marquez told CBS4 he booked his vacation 6 months ago.

“I’m from Venezuela and it’s been great — beautiful weather, excellent people, beautiful town; it’s my first time here,” Marquez said.

The lack of snow isn’t just a Colorado problem, and that’s bringing more visitors to the high country as well.

“This is better than sitting in Minnesota where there is even less snow and no mountains,” Sam Heiken said.

Experts think the rest of the ski season could go two ways — either the vacationers now will report back to other positional visitors that there’s not enough snow to make a trip worthwhile; or if the snow comes, the season could end even stronger.

“Not just more snowfall is expected, but the way the holidays are falling with Mardi Gras falling in synch with Presidents’ Day weekend — that’s a great time for people to have off and get to the mountains,” Zerowin said.

Lodging experts say the increase in bookings has more to do with the better economy than the snow conditions.


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