Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated at least weekly by mid-day Tuesday.

January occupancy still slightly behind pre-pandemic levels

“January occupancy benefitted from a tremendous pick up in response to our snowfall in December as well as a recovery of groups, events and some international guest visitation,” noted the executive summary sent out with the January 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics.

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 70.4% in January, up from 38.1% last year and down from 75.1% in 2020. Snowmass recorded 67.3% occupancy, beating 2020’s 32.1% but below 2020’s 75%.

February’s paid occupancy for Aspen and Snowmass is at 75.9% on the books as of Jan. 31, up from 34.3% last year and down from 76.2% in 2020. “We began the month with 75.9% on the books thanks to last week’s 49th annual National Brotherhood of Skiers event which brought in over 900 people, as well as the return of many of our Latin American guests for Carnival week at the end of February into early March,” according to the executive summary.

Winter occupancy is at 55.8% for Aspen and Snowmass combined, up from 29.5% last year and up from 54.1% two years ago. “We always knew this year’s calendar was going to set us up for success, but we didn’t predict this level of occupancy,” the summary noted.

Snowpack at McClure Pass down to about 70% of average

SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 80.3% of average on Feb. 21, with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 9.88 inches. The size of the snowpack relative to the 30-year average is down from 84.7% on Feb. 13. Last year on Feb. 21, the SNOTEL station up the pass recorded an SWE of 10.31 inches.

The monitoring station at the lower-elevation McClure Pass recorded an SWE of 9.41 inches, or 71.3% of average, on Feb. 21 . A week before, the station also reported 9.02 inches of water contained in the snowpack, or 75.8% of average. Last year, on that same day, the station measured a snowpack holding 10.31 inches of water, or 78.1% of average.

On the northeast side of the Roaring Fork Basin, snowpack at Ivanhoe contains higher water levels than the 1991-2020 average, with 11.5 inches on Feb. 21, which is 101.7% of the average of 11.3 inches. It’s also up from last year’s 11.3 inches of SWE.

Snowpack at Schofield Pass reached 26.42 inches on Feb. 21, which represents 107.4% of average. Schofield Pass, which sits at an elevation of 10,700 feet between Marble and Crested Butte, has gained over 15 inches of SWE since Dec. 23, most of that during the late-December storm cycle, which left the pass with 175% of its average annual snowpack on Jan. 2.

Snow water equivalent — the metric used to track snowpack — is the amount of water contained within the snowpack, which will become our future water supply running in local rivers and streams.

Lake Powell keeps getting lower

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Jan. 7 that 350,000 acre-feet of water will be held back in Lake Powell from January to April instead of being released downstream to Lake Mead. The 350,000 acre-feet of water will reach Lake Mead later this year, between June and September after the spring runoff occurs.

“Without the changes to monthly water releases, the reservoir’s elevation was projected to steadily decline below the target elevation through the winter months,” a bureau press release noted.

Lake Powell‘s storage reached its lowest level recorded since it began filling in the 1960s and ’70s on Feb. 18, when the reservoir was 25.27% of full.

Last week, on Feb. 13, the reservoir was 25.49% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Feb. 18, 2021, the reservoir was 38.53% of full.

The surface elevation of Lake Powell is only 3.5 feet above the target elevation of 3,525 feet as it hit a record low on Feb. 18, 2022, when the reservoir’s elevation dropped to 3,528.5 feet, or 171.5 feet from full pool. The reservoir has lost one foot since Feb. 13, when the elevation was at 170.6 feet from full pool. Last year, on Feb. 18, the reservoir reached 3,573.24 feet or 126.76 feet from full pool.

Swinging air temperature recorded in Aspen

Temperatures increased from a high of 35°F on Feb. 12, which is 0.8 degrees above normal, to a high of 48°F on Feb. 15, which is about 13 degrees above normal, according to temperatures recorded at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. Then, the maximum temperature dropped to 27°F on Feb. 17 before going back up to 37°F on Feb. 18. The minimum increased from 6°F on Feb. 13 to 22°F on Feb. 16 before dropping again to 8°F on Feb. 18.

Clean air reported in Aspen last week

The air quality in Aspen was “good” this past week. The AQI index for ozone ranged from 35 on Feb. 17 to 48 on Feb. 15.

Laurine Lassalle is Aspen Journalism’s data desk editor, where she works to catalogue and analyze local public data. She also heads our our “Tracking the Curve” project, documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin,...