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

Summer occupancy rate is down but about more hotel rooms were booked

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 52.6% in October, down from 53.7% last year. Snowmass recorded 32.2% paid occupancy, down from 2021’s 35.4%, according to the October 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges, compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics. October occupancy reached 43.5% for the two towns combined this year, down from 47.3% last year.

“As was true the remainder of the summer, occupied rooms were higher this year than last,” the summary noted.

It’s worth nothing that only commercial occupancy is counted in the report. It doesn’t reflect the occupancy of short-term rentals.

November’s paid occupancy was projected to reach 16%, based on reservations on the books as of Oct. 31 for Aspen and Snowmass, down from 21.5% last year.

Overall summer occupancy is down from last year with 53.3% for Aspen and Snowmass combined, down from 2021’s 60.6%.

“Snowmass saw the most dramatic change, occupying 89,135 this summer vs 69,877 (last year),” according to the summary. “Aspen was flat in rooms sold, occupying 152,883 vs 152,387.” 

The report also noted that some of the occupancy rates includes long rentals used to house workforce in response to the local housing crisis.

Roaring Fork Basin snowpack still above average

Snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin reached 116% of average for Nov. 20 with 2.9 inches of snow-water equivalent, according to NOAA.

SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 76.1% of average on Nov. 20, with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 2.28 inches, up from 2.2 inches on Nov. 13. Last year on Nov. 20, the SNOTEL station up the pass (located at elevation 10,600 feet) recorded an SWE of 2.52 inches, or 84% of average.

The monitoring station at McClure Pass located at elevation 9,500 feet recorded a SWE of 3.39 inches on Nov. 20, or 169.3% of average. That’s up from a SWE of 3.31 inches on Nov. 13. Last year, on Nov. 20, the station also measured a snowpack holding 0.39 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 3.31 inches on Nov. 20, or 122.5% of average.

Snowpack at Schofield Pass reached 4.61 inches on Nov. 20, which represents 90.3% 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.

Air temperatures keep dropping

High air temperatures at the Aspen airport dropped from 45°F on Nov. 13 to 25°F on Nov. 15, which is about 15 degrees below normal, before going up to 35°F on Nov. 17. Meanwhile, low temperatures dropped as low as 3°F on Nov. 16 before going up to 8°F on Nov. 17, which about eight degrees below normal.

Overall streamflow is down from last week

The Roaring Fork River below Maroon Creek flowed at 107 cfs on Nov. 20, or 96.4% of average, according to the USGS gauge. That’s up from Nov. 13, when the river was flowing at 104 cfs, or 95.4% of average.

At Stillwater, located upstream of Aspen, the Fork on Nov. 20 ran at 14.3 cfs or 46.1% of average, down from 15.3 cfs and from 47.8% of average on Nov. 13.

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 12.1 cfs on Nov. 20.

The Roaring Fork at Emma, below the confluence with the dam-controlled Fryingpan, saw and Nov. 20 streamflow of 240 cfs, or about 79.7% of average. That’s down from 256 cfs, or 83.4% of average, on Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, the Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, which is not impacted by dams or transbasin diversions, flowed at 55 cfs, or 80.6% of average, on Nov. 20. Last week, the river ran at 75 cfs, or 102.5% of average.

Lake Powell’s elevation has lost 3.6 inches since last week

Lake Powell‘s storage remains at one of its lowest levels recorded since it began filling in the 1960s. On Nov. 20, the reservoir was 23.72% full (with a total capacity based on a 1986 sedimentation survey) or 24.75% full (based on updated 2017-18 sedimentation data). That’s down from Nov. 13, when the nation’s second-largest reservoir was at 23.83% of capacity (1986 data) or 24.86% (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 Nov. 20, 2021, it was 29.11% full (based on 1986 data).

On Nov. 20, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,528.9 feet, or 171.2 feet from full pool, down from 3,529.3 feet on Nov. 13. The reservoir’s water level on Nov. 20 was about 3.9 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 Nov. 20, the reservoir reached 3,542.79 feet in elevation, or 157.21 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.

Clean air reported in Aspen

The air quality in Aspen was “good” last week with an AQI index for ozone ranging from 37 on Nov. 15-16 to 43 on Nov. 20.

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,...