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

Nearly 70% of the hotel rooms in Aspen were occupied in August — but this summer’s numbers are down

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 69% in August, down from 74.7% last year. Snowmass recorded 51.4% paid occupancy, down from 2021’s 61.9%, according to the August 2022 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges, compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics.

The Snowmass rates have an important caveat. Last year, the Viewline and Wildwood hotels in Snowmass were excluded from the report as they were closed for renovation. But these two hotels represent a significant portion of Snowmass’ inventory.

“When available rooms drastically change, the occupancy percentages can distort the occupancy picture,” according to the July summary.

It’s worth nothing that only commercial occupancy are counted in this report. This means that it doesn’t reflect the occupancy of short-term rentals.

September’s paid occupancy was projected to reach 60.9%, based on reservations on the books as of Aug. 31 for Aspen and Snowmass, down from 69.9% last year.

Overall summer occupancy is down from last year. Actual reservations through August and reservations on the books through the remainder of the season put Aspen and Snowmass summer occupancy at 48%, down from 2021’s 55%.

Recent rain boosted upper valley streamflows

River levels in the Roaring Fork basin came up around Sept. 22 as rain fell on the valley.

Below Maroon Creek, the USGS gauge measured streamflow at 130 cfs on Sept. 25, or 109.2% of average. That’s up from Sept. 18, when the river was flowing at 128 cfs at 103.2% of average. The Fork below Maroon Creek peaked at 143 cfs on Sept. 22 and 23 before dropping to 130 cfs.

At Emma, below the confluence with the dam-controlled Fryingpan, the Sept. 25 streamflow of 437 cfs represented about 100.5% of average. That’s down from 450 cfs, but up from 97.2% of average, on Sept. 18.

At Stillwater, located upstream of Aspen, the Fork on Sept. 25 ran at 43.4 cfs or 90.4% of average, up from 41.2 cfs and from 85.8% of average, on Sept. 18. That put the river above the decreed minimum instream flow for the stretch of 35 cfs.

The transbasin diversion that sends Roaring Fork basin headwaters to Front Range cities was flowing at 1.4 cfs on Sept. 25, which was unchanged from Sept. 18 and 11.

Meanwhile, the Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, which is not impacted by dams or transbasin diversions, flowed at 96 cfs, or 84.5% of average, on Sept. 25. Last week, the river ran at 90 cfs, or 78.5% of average.

Lake Powell’s storage level has gone up since last week

Lake Powell‘s storage remains at one of its lowest levels recorded since it began filling in the 1960s. On Sept. 25, the reservoir was 23.91% full (with a total capacity based on a 1986 sedimentation survey) or 24.95% full (based on 2017-18 sedimentation data), up from Sept. 18, when it was 23.87% full (1986 data) or 24.9% (2017-18 data).

The small increase in Lake Powell’s water levels may be due to rain, which boosted streamflow, and possible irrigation cutbacks in the upper basin.

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.

“After inputting the new data on July 1, 2022, storage values at the current elevation were updated, resulting in a decrease of 443,000 acre-feet,“ bureau officials wrote in an email. 

Aspen Journalism published a story explaining the recent drop in storage due to sedimentation.

The reservoir’s capacity has fallen since last year, when on Sept. 25, 2021, it was 30.06% full (1986 data).

On Sept. 25, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,529.6 feet, or 170.4 feet from full pool, slightly up from 3,529.5 feet on Sept. 18. That puts the water level just about four-five 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 Sept. 25, the reservoir reached 3,546.1 feet, or 153.9 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.

Maximum air temperature dropped about ten degrees within four days

High air temperatures at the Aspen airport reached up to 78°F on Sept. 18 before dropping to 64°F on Sept. 22, which is about two degrees below normal. Meanwhile, low temperatures were above normal, from 38°F on Sept. 18 to 44°F on Sept. 22, which is about eight degrees above normal.

‘Good’ air quality recorded last week in Aspen

The air quality in Aspen has been improving in the past two weeks after air quality was impacted by out-of-state wildfires. Last week, the air quality in Aspen was “good” with an AQI index for ozone ranging from 19 on Sept. 21 to 44 on Sept. 24.

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,...