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

February occupancy in Aspen hits new record high in 2022

“Due to a strong calendar and a healthy combination of both leisure and group travel, February was destined to boast a solid occupancy,” noted the executive summary sent out with the February 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics.

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached its highest-ever recorded level for February with 79.8%, up from 45.6% last year and up from 79.3% in 2020. Snowmass recorded its third best February occupancy with 78.3%, beating 2021’s 47.3% but below 2020’s 81.9%.

March’s paid occupancy for Aspen and Snowmass is at 73.4% on the books as of Feb. 28, up from 49.3% last year and up from 70.4% in 2020.

Winter occupancy is at 57.5% for Aspen and Snowmass combined, up from 36.4% last year and up from 57.7% two years ago. 

Lake Powell’s water level dips below target elevation

Lake Powell‘s storage reached its lowest level recorded since it began filling in the 1960s and ’70s on March 20 when the reservoir was 24.21% of full.

Last week, on March 13, the reservoir was 24.41% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on March 20, 2021, the reservoir was 37.23% of full.

The surface elevation of Lake Powell dipped below the target elevation of 3,525 feet on March 15. The reservoir hit a record low on March 20 when its elevation dropped to 3,524.4 feet, or 175.6 feet from full pool. The reservoir had lost about one foot since March 13, when the elevation was at 3,525.2 feet. Last year, on March 20, the reservoir reached 3,569.35 feet or 130.65 feet from full pool.

The “minimum power pool” for turbines generating hydropower at the Glen Canyon is 3,490 feet, and 3,525 feet has been set as a buffer to ensure that the reservoir and the turbines can continue to function properly. Aspen Journalism recently published a story on the impact of last summer’s emergency releases designed to help Lake Powell.

Snowpack increasing across the basin

“Despite warm temperatures and melting snow earlier in the week, snowpack increased in the Roaring Fork Watershed to 114% of normal,” according to Roaring Fork Conservancy’s snow report of March 17.

SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 85.3% of average on March 20, with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 12.8 inches. The size of the snowpack relative to the 30-year average is up from 83.9% on March 13. Last year on March 20, the SNOTEL station up the pass recorded an SWE of 12.91 inches.

The monitoring station at the lower-elevation McClure Pass recorded an SWE of 14.21 inches, or 88.3% of average, on March 20. A week before, the station reported 13.5 inches of water contained in the snowpack, or 83.9% of average. Last year, on that same day, the station measured a snowpack holding 12.6 inches of water, or 78.3% of average.

On the northeast side of the Roaring Fork Basin, snowpack at Ivanhoe contains higher water levels than the 1991-2020 average, with 14.61 inches on March 20, which is 105.8% of the average of 13.8 inches. It’s also up from last year’s 13.7 inches of SWE.

Snowpack at Schofield Pass reached 35.79 inches on March 20, which represents 114.7% of average. Schofield Pass, which sits at an elevation of 10,700 feet between Marble and Crested Butte, picked up about one inch of SWE since last week.

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.

Air temperature getting closer to normal

Temperatures increased from a high of 23°F on March 10, which is about 18 degrees below normal, to a high of 49°F on March 15, which is about seven degrees above normal, according to temperatures recorded at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. The minimum jumped from -10°F on March 11 to 23°F on March 16.

Air quality got “moderate” for two days last week

The air quality in Aspen was “good” this past week besides two days (March 15 and 19) with “moderate” air quality. The AQI index for ozone ranged from 43 on March 16 and 17 to 61 on March 15.

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Laurine Lassalle

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,...