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.

Summer occupancy in Aspen and Snowmass on track to break records

While June 2020’s paid occupancy rate was only at 23.8% in Aspen and 14.4% in Snowmass, this year, the paid occupancy rate for June jumped to 64.8% for Aspen and 47.9% for Snowmass, according to a local occupancy report.

“Combined, the resorts finished the month at 58.6% occupancy, ahead of 2019‘s 56.9% and 19.9% in 2020,” according to the executive summary sent out with the June 2021 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics. That June 2021 would see higher occupancy than 2019 is notable given the absence from the calendar of the Food & Wine Classic — which has been moved to Sept. 10-12 this year — and a slow start for other arts and cultural events.

Reservations booked for July as of June 30 account for 77% occupancy between Aspen and Snowmass, up from 65% in 2019.

As of June 30, 2021, reservations on the books for Aspen and Snowmass for May through October account for an occupancy rate of 47.6%. On June 30, 2019, the figure denoting actual paid occupancy from May and June, plus what’s on the books through October, was at 39.4%.

“As predicted, we are on track to break records this summer,” the executive summary said.

The Western Slope remains in exceptional drought

“The Western Slope is still very much in exceptional drought and streams across the Roaring Fork Watershed are flowing, on average, 40% of normal,” according to the Roaring Fork River Conservancy’s weekly report.

The USGS gauge located upstream of Aspen at Stillwater measured the Roaring Fork River flowing at 46 cfs on July 20, which represents 33.1% of average for the day. The Roaring Fork River’s stream flow decreased by 40% compared to last year when the river ran at 79.9 cfs on July 20, or 57.5% of average.

The Colorado River at Dotsero flowed at 1,270 cfs on July 20, which represents 48% of average. On July 20, 2020, the river ran at 1,370 cfs — or 51.9% of average. 

As of July 20, about 18% of Colorado, including nearly all of Garfield County, is in “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, with the worst conditions centered on the northwest part of the state. Last year, the state didn’t report exceptional drought at this time of year but still experienced widespread drought at a lower level, as 97% of the state was at least abnormally dry. With wet conditions eliminating any drought on the Front Range and Eastern Plains, 47% of the state this year this year is at least abnormally dry.

Credit: U.S. Drought Monitor

Lake Powell‘s storage kept getting lower this past week. On July 21, the reservoir was 32.8% of full, compared to 33.3% full on July 14. The reservoir’s capacity has fallen significantly since last year, when on July 21, 2020, the reservoir was 51.4% of full.

The surface elevation of Lake Powell is also in decline. On July 21, 2021, the reservoir’s elevation was at 3,555.55 feet, or 144.45 feet from full pool. It was at 142.8 feet from full pool on July 14. Last year on July 21, the reservoir reached 3,607.71 feet or 92.29 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 the operation of 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.

‘Moderate’ air quality recorded this past week in Aspen

Since July 15, the air quality sensor maintained by the city of Aspen has reported “moderate” air quality, which means the daily average index reading has been between 51 and 100. July 18 was the worst day of this past week, with an AQI index up to 77. Yet, the daily air quality since July 15 has been better than the week before when smoke from fires in the Northwest reached Colorado.

Air temperature dropped on July 14 but is now back up

Maximum air temperature measured at Aspen dropped to 65°F on July 14, which was about 15 degrees below normal. But ever since, maximum temperature has been climbing, reaching 90°F on July 18, about 10 degrees above normal. On the same day, the minimum temperature of 48°F was 0.5°F 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,...