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

February 2023 occupancy down from last year in Aspen and Snowmass

Paid occupancy in Aspen reached 77.1% in February, down from 78.8% last year. Snowmass recorded 74.3% paid occupancy, down from 2022’s 78.2%, according to the February 2023 occupancy report for Aspen and Snowmass lodges, compiled by local tourism officials and reservations tracking firm Destimetrics. February occupancy reached 75.8% for the two towns combined this year, down from 78.5% last year.

“The Saturday of President’s Day weekend was the second highest occupancy day of the year, after December 29,” according to the report’s summary.

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

March’s paid occupancy as of Feb. 28 was at 69.3% for Aspen and Snowmass, down from 73.3% last year.

Overall winter occupancy is down from last year with 55.5% for Aspen and Snowmass combined, down from 2022’s 57.1 % based on completed stays and reservations on the books as of Feb. 28. “Winter’s pace has become somewhat normalized due to the return of groups, international travel and events, all inventory that books well in advance,” the report noted. “Our pick up throughout the season didn’t quite keep up to last year’s pace. However, the resort is still having a successful winter.”

Local snowpack still on the rise

Note: Local snowpack readings and chart are now using the percent of median instead of percent of average.

Snowpack in the Roaring Fork basin reached an average of 23 inches of snow-water equivalent per site on April 2, or 146% of median, according to NRCS. Snowpack in the basin typically peaks around mid April.

SNOTEL sites that monitor snowfall throughout the winter measured the snowpack at Independence Pass at 109.6% of median on April 2 with a “snow water equivalent” (SWE) of 17.2 inches, up from 16.2 inches on March 26. Last year on April 2, the SNOTEL station up the pass (located at elevation 10,600 feet) recorded an SWE of 13.7 inches.

The monitoring station at McClure Pass located at elevation 8,770 feet recorded a SWE of 28.8 inches on April 2, or 182% of median. That’s up from a SWE of 27.5 inches on March 26. Last year, on April 2, the station measured a snowpack holding 13.2 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 17.6 inches of SWE on April 2, or 130.4% of median. Snowpack at this site is now exceeding its median seasonal peak of 17.2 inches.

Snowpack at Schofield Pass, which boasts some of the largest SWE accumulations in the basin, reached 48.1 inches on April 2, which represents 161.4% of median. Schofield Pass sits at an elevation of 10,700 feet between Marble and Crested Butte.

Snowpack at that site has been exceeding its median seasonal peak of 35.1 inches since March 11, which typically doesn’t come until mid April. McClure Pass, which as we reported earlier in March is seeing especially high snowpack readings this winter like other mid elevations stations, topped its median seasonal peak of 16.6 inches on Feb. 14 this year.

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.

Roaring Fork basin streamflow about 50% of average

As spring runoff is about to start, streamflows in the Roaring Fork basin are below average but on par with last year’s flows.

The USGS sensor on the Roaring Fork river below Maroon Creek hasn’t recorded any streamflow data since mid-December due to ice.

At Emma, below the confluence with the dam-controlled Fryingpan, the April. 2 streamflow of 190 cfs represented about 61.3% of average. That’s up from 167 cfs, and 55.1% of average, on March 26.

At Stillwater, located upstream of Aspen, the Fork on April 2 ran at 14.6 cfs or 45.6% of average, up from 12.8 cfs and 42.7% of average, on March 26.

The transbasin diversion that sends Roaring Fork basin headwaters to Front Range cities was flowing at 7 cfs on April 2.

Meanwhile, the Crystal River above Avalanche Creek, which is not impacted by dams or transbasin diversions, flowed at 56 cfs, or 52.1% of average, on April 2. Last week, the river ran at 50 cfs, or 57.2% of average.

Lake Powell’s elevation remains around three feet below target elevation

Lake Powell‘s water levels began their seasonal rise in mid-March as rising temperatures initiated snowmelt, after the reservoir dropped to its lowest level on record since filling. On April 2, the reservoir was 22.06% full (with a total capacity based on a 1986 sedimentation survey) or 23.01% full (based on updated 2017-18 sedimentation data). That’s roughly unchanged from March 26, when the nation’s second-largest reservoir was at 22.05% of capacity (1986 data) or 23.01% (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 April 2, 2022, it was 23.88% full (based on 1986 data).

On April 2, Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,521.9 feet, or 178.2 feet from full pool, slightly up from 3,521.8 feet on March 26. The reservoir’s water level on April 2 was 3.1 feet below the target elevation of 3,525. Last year, on April 2, the reservoir reached 3,523.07 feet in elevation, or 176.93 feet from full pool, on its way to a seasonal peak of 3,539.84 feet on July 3.

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.

Swinging air temperatures in late March

High air temperatures at the Aspen airport dropped from 37°F on March 24 to 23°F on March 25 before going back up to 51°F on March 29, or five degrees above normal. Meanwhile, low temperatures decreased from 10°F on March 24 to -6°F on March 28, which is 29 degrees below normal, before reaching 19°F on March 29, or about four degrees below normal.

Cleaner air in Aspen last week

The air quality in Aspen was “good” last week. The AQI index for ozone ranged from 45 on March 31 to 50 on March 28.

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,...