Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated weekly on Tuesdays.

Precipitation at Aspen airport was 50% above average in August

Precipitation measured at Aspen airport was above average in August 2022, with a total of 2.23 inches compared to the 1991-2020 average of 1.48 inches, according to NOAA. July’s 1.71 inches beat the month’s average of 1.64 inches. With the monsoon rain, August became the rainiest month of this year so far. But according to the 30-year average, the months of April and July should get the most rain. From June to August, a total of 4.88 inches of rain fell this year, compared to a historical average of about 4 inches.

While occupancy rate is down this summer, hotels count about 2,000 more rooms being occupied this year in Aspen and Snowmass

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 75.5% in July, down from 86.4% last year. Snowmass recorded 61.5% paid occupancy, down from 2021’s 76.2%, according to the July 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges, compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics.

However, these rates have an important caveat. Last year, the Viewline and Wildwood hotels in Snowmass were excluded from the report as they were closed for renovation. But these two hotels represent a significant portion of Snowmass’ inventory.

“When available rooms drastically change, the occupancy percentages can distort the occupancy picture,” according to the summary.

It’s worth nothing that only commercial occupancy are counted in this report. This means that it doesn’t reflect the occupancy of short-term rentals.

“57,575 rooms were occupied in July 2022 compared to 55,728 in July 2021.  This change represents 3.3% more rooms occupied,” the report’s summary noted.

August’s paid occupancy was projected to reach 69.1%, based on reservations on the books as of July 31 for Aspen and Snowmass, down from 82.6% last year. A total of 39,925 rooms were on-the-books this year, down from 42,535 rooms in 2021.

Overall summer occupancy is down from last year. Actual reservation through July and reservations on the books through the remainder of the season put Aspen and Snowmass summer occupancy at 42.1%, down from 2021’s 51.8%. “While the hotels are accurately experiencing lower occupancy percentages as reported in these reports, both communities are reporting more rooms booked over last year,” according to the report.

As of July 31, 194,084 rooms were booked this summer, up from 191,947 in 2021.  

The Fork near Emma and below Maroon Creek is running above-average

The state of the Roaring Fork River this late summer season is in flux and depends on where in the valley you’re measuring.

Below Maroon Creek, the USGS gauge measured streamflow at 162 cfs on Aug. 28, or 105.9% of average. That’s down from Aug. 21, when the river was flowing at 173 cfs; however, as a percentage of average, this week’s value rose from last week’s 88.7%.

At Emma, below the confluence with the dam-controlled Fryingpan, the Aug. 28 streamflow of 509 cfs represented about 104.1% of average. That’s down from 540 cfs, and 104.9% of average, on Aug. 21.

But at Stillwater, located upstream of Aspen, the Fork on Aug. 28 ran at a paltry 24.9 cfs or 48.8% of average, down from 25.4 cfs, but up from 44.6% of average, on Aug. 21. That put the river below the decreed minimum instream flow for the stretch of 35 cfs, leading the state placed an instream flow call on the Fork at Difficult Creek on Aug. 23 to try and boost low flows for the sake of the environment.

The transbasin diversion that sends Roaring Fork basin headwaters to Front Range cities was flowing at 1.6 cfs on Aug. 28, down from 40.3 cfs on Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, the Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, which is not impacted by dams or transbasin diversions, flowed at 143 cfs, or 103.6% of average, on Aug. 28. Last week, the river ran at 171 cfs, or 108.2% of average.

Lake Powell’s elevation has lost about one foot since last week

Lake Powell‘s storage remains at one of its lowest levels recorded since it began filling in the 1960s. On Aug. 28, the reservoir was 24.56% full (with a total capacity based on a 1986 sedimentation survey) or 25.62% full (based on 2017-18 sedimentation data), down from Aug. 21, when it was 24.83% full (1986 data) or 25.9% (2017-18 data).

On July 1, the Bureau of Reclamation revised its data on the amount of water stored in Lake Powell, with a new, lower tally taking into account a 4% drop in the reservoir’s total available capacity between 1986 and 2018 due to sedimentation.

“After inputting the new data on July 1, 2022, storage values at the current elevation were updated, resulting in a decrease of 443,000 acre-feet,“ bureau officials wrote in an email. 

Aspen Journalism published a story explaining the recent drop in storage due to sedimentation.

The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Aug. 28, 2021, it was 31.08% full (1986 data).

On Aug. 21, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,532.3 feet, or 167.7 feet from full pool, down from 3,533.4 feet on Aug. 21. That puts the water level just 7.3 feet above the target elevation of 3,525. Powell’s surface elevation this year peaked at 3,539.84 feet on July 3, after it dipped to its lowest level since filling of 3,522.24 on April 22. Last year, on Aug. 28, the reservoir reached 3,549.64 feet, or 150.36 feet from full pool.

The “minimum power pool” for turbines generating hydropower at the Glen Canyon Dam 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.

Swinging air temperatures

High air temperatures at the Aspen airport dropped mid-August from 83°F on Aug. 14 to 67°F on Aug. 16 before going back up to 81°F on Aug. 18. Maximum air temperature then decreased again to 68°F on Aug. 21 before rising to 80°F on Aug. 24, which is about five degree above normal. Meanwhile, low temperatures dropped as well, from 49°F on Aug. 21 to 43°F on Aug. 23, or about two degrees below normal. On Aug. 25, minimum temperature was hovering around 47°F, or about three degrees above normal.

‘Good’ air quality reported last week in Aspen

The air quality in Aspen was “good” this past week. The AQI index ranged from 20 for PM2.5 on Aug. 25 and 44 for ozone on Aug. 23-24 and 27.

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,...