Aspen Journalism is compiling a data dashboard highlighting metrics of local public interest, updated at least every Friday. Check back for updates as we add more features.

July 2021 sets occupancy records for Aspen and Snowmass

July is the busiest month of the summer for Aspen and Snowmass, and often of the year, according to a local occupancy report.

July 2021 was no exception as the occupancy rate in Aspen reached 87.7%. In July 2020, this rate was only at 60.5%, and at 81% in July 2019.

July 2021 even eclipsed the record set for July in 2016 when the occupancy rate reached 83% in Aspen.

Snowmass also reported July 2021 as its busiest July ever, with a 75.5% occupancy rate, beating 2019’s 73.2%.

“The I-70 closure appears to be having more impact on traffic in the area (with travelers using 82 as a detour) than it has negatively affected visitation,” according to the executive summary sent out with the July 2021 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics. “We still have a great deal of guests who fly or drive using Independence Pass as their planned route so guests are still making their way here.”

Reservations booked for August as of July 31 account for 64.9% occupancy between Aspen and Snowmass, up from 54.6% in 2019.

As of July 31, 2021, reservations on the books for Aspen and Snowmass for May through October account for an occupancy rate of 52.4%. On July 31, 2019, the figure denoting actual paid occupancy from May and June, plus what’s on the books through October, was at around 45.6%.

Roaring Fork River streamflow back up

The USGS gauge located below Glenwood Springs measured the Colorado River flowing at 2,040 cfs, or 77.27% of average. The streamflow rate increased by 5% from Aug. 11 and 1.5% from Aug. 18, 2020.

Last week, upper Roaring Fork streamflow levels were lower than the minimum instream flow of 32 cfs established by a 1976 water rights decree. But the Cameo call — referring to senior water rights in the Grand Valley — on Aug. 13 led state authorities to cut flows into the Independence Pass transmountain diversion system that sends water collected from multiple creeks at the top of the Roaring Fork basin to Twin Lakes on the eastern slope. The diversion’s streamflow running through a tunnel under the Continental Divide dropped from 19.7 cfs on Aug. 13 to 1.6 cfs on Aug. 14. This has been helping the river meet the minimum instream flow.

The USGS gauge on the Roaring Fork near Aspen at Stillwater, located upstream of town and two major diversion ditches, measured streamflow at 47.8 cfs on Aug. 18, which represents 79.7% of average. The streamflow nearly doubled from Aug. 11 when the river was flowing at 24.5 cfs. On Aug. 18, 2020, the river ran at 35.9 cfs, or 59.8% of average. 

The ACES gauge, located near the Mill Street Bridge in central Aspen, measured the Roaring Fork at an average of 32.76 cfs on Aug. 18, up from 8.83 cfs on Aug. 11. The river ran at 15.07 cfs on that day last year.

The ACES gauge measures the river, which is already diminished by the diversion to the eastern slope, in an especially compromised stretch — below the Wheeler and Salvation ditches that divert water for upper valley users, and before the channel is replenished by Hunter, Castle and Maroon creeks.

The Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, near Redstone, flowed at 83 cfs, or 51.1% of average on Aug. 18. That was up 20% from last year, when the river ran at 69 cfs on Aug. 18, 2020. The Crystal River at the Dow Fish Hatchery bridge ran at 24 cfs on Aug. 18, which remains below the minimum instream flow set at 100 cfs set by the 1979 water rights decree.

Lake Powell keeps getting lower

Lake Powell‘s storage kept getting lower this past week, reaching its lowest level ever recorded on Aug. 18 when the reservoir was 31.35% of full.

Last week, on Aug. 11, the reservoir was 31.8% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen significantly since last year, when on Aug. 18, 2020, the reservoir was 49.29% of full.

The surface elevation of Lake Powell is also in decline and hit record low on Aug. 18, 2021, when the reservoir’s elevation dropped to 3,550.6 feet, or 149.4 feet from full pool. The reservoir’s elevation has lost nearly two feet since Aug. 11, when the elevation was at 147.92 feet from full pool. Last year, on Aug. 18, the reservoir reached 3,602.49 feet or 97.51 feet from full pool.

If the surface elevation of the reservoir on the Utah-Arizona state line, which stores Colorado River basin water, drops below 3.525.5 feet, it would trigger a host of consequences, including impacts to Glen Canyon Dam affecting hydropower production and potential litigation between the seven states that share water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The federal Bureau of Reclamation has begun releasing more water from reservoirs upstream in the basin to avoid this scenario.

Air quality improving but still “moderate” in Aspen

This past week, the air quality in Aspen improved compared to the week before, but it was still reported as “moderate” for five days. The air quality was “good” for on Aug. 14 and 15, but worsened on Aug. 16. The AQI index reached 68 for PM2.5 on Aug. 17. Last week’s poor air quality was caused by smoke mostly from California fires. This week’s air quality was affected by smoke coming from the Pacific Northwest fires.

Higher air temperature recorded this past week

Over the past week, maximum air temperature measured in Aspen was higher than normal, up to 89°F, or 11.2 degrees above normal. On Aug. 15, the maximum temperature was at 85°F, or about 7.7 degrees above normal. The minimum temperature was also higher than normal. On Aug. 15, the minimum temperature was 55°F, which is about 10 degrees above normal.

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,...