Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated weekly.
Winter occupancy is on par with last season
Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 30.2% in November, down from 33.4% last year. Snowmass recorded 12.4% paid occupancy, down from 2021’s 19.7%, according to the November 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges, compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics. November occupancy reached 21.7% for the two towns combined this year, down from 28.8% last year.
It’s worth nothing that only commercial occupancy is counted in the report. It doesn’t reflect the occupancy of short-term rentals.
December’s paid occupancy as of Nov. 30 was at 47.6% for Aspen and Snowmass, down from 53.4% last year.
“December has been pacing behind all year, and comp reports show its pacing down for many competitors as well,” the report noted. “This number is as of Nov. 30, so ideally our incredible early season conditions have bolstered last minute demand and our lodges are seeing some pick up for December.”
Overall winter occupancy is slightly up from last year with 42.5% for Aspen and Snowmass combined, up from 2021’s 42.3% based on the books as of Nov. 30.
“International visitations return is driving a significant amount of January business, as is a strong pick up for Gay Ski Week and X Games Aspen,” according to the report. “March is doing well due to World Cup occupancy and early spring break bookings.”
Roaring Fork Basin snowpack remains above average
Snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin reached 110.9% of average for Dec. 19 with 6.1 inches of snow-water equivalent, according to NOAA.
SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 88.6% of average on Dec. 19, with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 5.31 inches, up from 4.69 inches on Dec. 11. Last year on Dec. 19, the SNOTEL station up the pass (located at elevation 10,600 feet) recorded an SWE of 4.88 inches, or 81.4% of average.
The monitoring station at McClure Pass located at elevation 9,500 feet recorded a SWE of 6.5 inches on Dec. 19, or 132.6% of average. That’s up from a SWE of 5.51 inches on Dec. 11. Last year, on Dec. 19, the station also measured a snowpack holding 2.8 inches of water.
On the northeast side of the Roaring Fork Basin, snowpack at Ivanhoe, which sits at an elevation of 10,400 feet, reached 5.71 inches on Dec. 19, or 109.8% of average.
Snowpack at Schofield Pass reached 10.91 inches on Dec. 19, which represents 102.9% of average. Schofield Pass sits at an elevation of 10,700 feet between Marble and Crested Butte.
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.
The Fork is running at 80% of average below Maroon Creek
The Roaring Fork River below Maroon Creek flowed at 79 cfs on Dec. 15, or 79.9% of average, according to the USGS gauge. That’s down from Dec. 11, when the river was flowing at 123 cfs, or 121.8% of average.
At Stillwater, located upstream of Aspen, the Fork on Dec. 19 ran at 13.3 cfs or 49.3% of average, down from 15 cfs and from 53.6% of average on Dec. 11.
The upper Fork’s flow is impacted by the Independence Pass transbasin diversion system that sends Roaring Fork headwaters to Front Range cities. Water flowing through the tunnel under the Continental Divide between Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek and the South Fork of Lake Creek measured 12.6 cfs on Dec. 19.
The Roaring Fork at Emma, below the confluence with the dam-controlled Fryingpan, saw on Dec. 19 streamflow of 274 cfs, or about 103.4% of average. That’s up from 240 cfs, or 87.6% of average, on Dec. 11.
Meanwhile, the Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, which is not impacted by dams or transbasin diversions, flowed at 52 cfs, or 93.6% of average, on Dec. 19. Last week, the river ran at 60 cfs, or 105.6% of average.
High air temperature dropping as low as 19°F
High air temperatures at the Aspen airport dropped from 46°F on Dec. 11 to 19°F on Dec. 13, which is about 12 degrees below normal. Meanwhile, low temperatures increased from -3°F on Dec. 9 to 15°F on Dec. 12 before going down to 12°F on Dec. 13, which about four degrees above normal.
Lake Powell’s elevation down to nearly one foot from critical level
Lake Powell‘s storage remains at one of its lowest levels recorded since it began filling in the 1960s. On Dec. 19, the reservoir was 23.09% full (with a total capacity based on a 1986 sedimentation survey) or 24.08% full (based on updated 2017-18 sedimentation data). That’s down from Dec. 11, when the nation’s second-largest reservoir was at 23.27% of capacity (1986 data) or 24.27% (based on 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. Aspen Journalism in July published a story explaining the that drop in storage due to sedimentation.
The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Dec. 19, 2021, it was 28.09% full (based on 1986 data).
On Dec. 19, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,526.2 feet, or 173.8 feet from full pool, down from 3,527 feet on Dec. 11. The reservoir’s water level on Dec. 19 was 1.2 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 Dec. 19, the reservoir reached 3,539.12 feet in elevation, or 160.88 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.
Aspen air quality remains clean
The air quality in Aspen was “good” last week with an AQI index for ozone ranging from 34 on Dec. 14 to 40 on Dec. 12-18-19.
- Colorado’s Division of Water Resources
- Bureau of Reclamation
- Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District
- Aspen Global Change Institute