As the 2009-10 ski and snowboard season moves into its final two months, lodging occupancy at major mountain resorts barely surpassed last years mark. Occupancy as of Feb. 28 rose 0.03% ahead of the same time last season, according to the most recent Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP) report.

This small increase is a big win because it indicates the reversal of a long term down cycle.  noted Ralf Garrison, founder and director of MTRiP.

The report showed that February 2010 year-over-year occupancy was up 2.7% compared to February 2009, making it the second consecutive year-over-year increase in actual occupancy. The average daily room rate was down 6.6%. After a strong January, reservations taken in February for arrival in February through July are up 12.7% compared to 2009, a continuation of the stronger pace seen in most of the past few months. 

The report also noted that while year-over-year occupancy reservations remain down for the next six months, it has improved since Jan. 31. Booking pace also increased with additional bookings in February for arrival in the next six months and on-the-books reservations up for two of the next six months. March 2010 is up 5.4% compared to the same month last year, but average room rates are down six percent from March 2009.

With the end of season in sight and anecdotal reports indicating decent bookings in March, we remain optimistic that the season will finish with better overall occupancies than last year, said Garrison. The mountain travel industry can be encouraged by the positive momentum represented by this months ‘win and can relate to the Olympic medalists, when even if the margin of victory is small, its significance is not.