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

Occupancy reached 90% during Labor Day weekend

This year set a new record for August’s occupancy rate in Aspen, as the paid occupancy rate reached 75.8%. In August 2020, this rate was only at 60.1%, and at 75% in August 2019.

Snowmass reported its third highest summer occupancy month, reaching 60.6%.

Reservations booked for September as of Aug. 31 account for 54.7% occupancy between Aspen and Snowmass, up from 41.7% in 2019.

“Aspen is currently pacing at 61.9% and Snowmass is pacing at 44.6%, each poised to break records if the weather holds,” according to the executive summary sent out with the August 2021 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics.

The report stated that occupancy approached 90% during Labor Day weekend with the Jazz Aspen Snowmass event.

“The Food & Wine Classic shifting to September this year is also contributing to September’s increase,” according to the executive summary. “In addition, we are seeing very strong demand across the board for September, including mid-week days.”

As of Aug. 31, 2021, paid occupancy to date since May plus reservations on the books for Aspen and Snowmass through October account for an occupancy rate of 55.3%. On Aug. 31, 2019, the figure tracking seasonal occupancy performance and forecasting was at around 51%.

Streamflow levels keep declining

A month ago, 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. This helped the river meet the minimum instream flow for about two weeks. The Cameo Call is still on, but over the past two weeks, streamflow levels on the upper Roaring Fork have gone down and are no longer meeting 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 29.6 cfs on Sept. 12, which represents 60.4% of average. Ten days ago, the river was flowing at 29.9 cfs. On Sept. 12, 2020, the river ran at 53.8 cfs. 

The ACES gauge, located near the Mill Street Bridge in central Aspen, measured the Roaring Fork at an average of 12.03 cfs on Sept. 12, down from 14.26 cfs on Sept. 1. The river ran at 34.95 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 66 cfs, or 52.5% of average on Sept. 12. That was 9.6% down from last year, when the river ran at 73 cfs on Sept. 12, 2020. The Crystal River at the Dow Fish Hatchery bridge ran at 31.1 cfs on Sept. 12. The current streamflow remains below the minimum instream flow set at 100 cfs set by the 1979 water rights decree.

“Stream flows in the Roaring Fork Watershed continued to decline over the last week. The exception remains the managed Fryingpan River, flowing 130% of normal as a result of increased releases from Ruedi Reservoir,” wrote the Roaring Fork Conservancy in its weekly report. “This water is on its way to support fish recovery efforts and generate hydropower electricity in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, and for agriculture in the Grand Valley.”

Local air quality still being affected by out-of-state fires

Over the past 10 days, the air quality in Aspen was reported as “moderate” for seven consecutive days, from Sept. 5 to Sept. 10. The AQI index reached 78 for PM2.5 on Sept. 8. The air quality has been”good” since Sept. 11 with an AQI index for ozone down to 44 on Sept. 12. Poor air quality experienced in the region was caused by smoke mostly from out-of-state fires.

Air temperature higher than normal

Over the past ten days, air temperature measured in Aspen went up, reaching 86°F on Sept. 9, or 14.8°F above normal. The minimum temperature was closer to normal, up to 44°F on Sept. 9 or 3.5 degrees above normal.

Lake Powell keeps shrinking

Lake Powell‘s storage kept getting lower this past week, reaching its lowest level recorded since it began filling in the 1960s and ’70s on Sept. 12, when the reservoir was 30.67% of full.

Ten days ago, on Sept. 1 the reservoir was 30.93% of full. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen significantly since last year, when on Sept. 12, 2020, the reservoir was 47.57% of full.

The surface elevation of Lake Powell is also in decline and hit a record low on Sept. 12, 2021, when the reservoir’s elevation dropped to 3,548.3 feet, or 151.8 feet from full pool. The reservoir’s elevation has lost nearly one foot since Sept. 1, when the elevation was at 150.9 feet from full pool. Last year, on Sept. 12, the reservoir reached 3,598.09 feet or 101.91 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 (a surface elevation below 3,490 would mean no hydropower could be generated) 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.

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,...