By Jamie Leary

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is typically one of the busiest for ski communities. For one of Colorado’s most popular destinations, numbers for lodging are starting to show a downward trend.

Room night data for the MLK weekend is not available yet, but the Christmas and New Year Eve holiday ended up almost 17% down, according to Lucy Kay, CEO and President of the Breckenridge Tourism Office.

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“That’s about 4,000 room nights,” said Kay.

Kay updated the Breckenridge Town Council during a Jan. 12 meeting:

“Most of that drop in the room nights for the holidays came in the last two weeks of December,” she said. “Those last two weeks of December there were a lot of cancellations. There were a lot of bookings too, but obviously a lot more cancellations than bookings, and with the loss of the Lifestyle Group, I think a lot of that fell in that window.”

Summit County saw a strong summer and a busy fall, but things on the ski slopes have also felt quieter.

“I’ve actually felt that even with the capacity they’re at, the crowds are pretty good,” said Denver resident, Scott Cain.

Fox came to ski Breckenridge with his family friends for the weekend, and until Sunday, hadn’t had to do much waiting in lines.

(credit: CBS)

“The lines looked big, but they have them spread out so optically it looked like there was a lot of people here, but in essence there really wasn’t,” he said.

Cain was sorely disappointed when he made his way to the base area Sunday and saw the crowds had picked up significantly.

“We just literally got out to the slope and this is kind of ridiculous. It’s a lot of folks,” said Cain’s friend, Dan Fox.

“We’ve got kids up there somewhere so we should probably go find them, and wait it out and see if the crowds go away here in a bit. It’s going to be a bit,” added Cain.

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Cain and Fox believed the reservation system along with the constantly changing restrictions may have deterred some people, the price they believed could be another.

While it’s typical for ticket prices to surge during the holiday, it gave Cain and Fox sticker shock.

“I guessed $180, and I guess I was way off,” said Cain.

The price for a single day on Sunday was $209.

“This is such a beautiful place to visit and it’s getting too expensive,” he said.

Vail Resorts says guests are encouraged to purchase online, at least a week in advance for the lowest guaranteed price on lift tickets. Especially so this season as COVID safety takes priority, all lift tickets should be purchased online to limit contact points.

Steamboat Resort is another area with similar holiday pricing. It says it’s one of many ways to keep patrons safe and minimize crowding.

“It is a measure for Steamboat to be able to limit capacity without needing reservations for Ikon Pass holders or anyone who purchased a package,” said Loryn Duke, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. spokesperson.

(credit: CBS)

While the price didn’t appear to deter crowds at Breckenridge Sunday, it is still under capacity restrictions and the more terrain that opens, the more spread-out crowds will be.

Not only are bookings for lodging down, but holiday travel over the weekend appears to be slightly less than over this time last year. The Colorado Department of Transportation says despite slightly lower numbers of motorists this year, people should still be prepared for longer than normal travel times, especially with incoming snow.

“As far as traffic goes, it’s hard to say with the ongoing pandemic and the reservation system for the ski resorts but we still anticipate heavy traffic going eastbound both today and tomorrow afternoon and then of course the morning hours going westbound. Traffic counts for holiday weekends in 2020 were still comparable with holiday weekends in years past though sometimes a bit lower. The difference we’re seeing now is the heavy traffic is not always on the weekends likely due to being able to work remotely,” said Presley Fowler, Communications Coordinator for the CDOT.

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Make sure to check before your trip for the latest road and weather conditions.

Jamie Leary