Y2K May Leave Some Resorts Empty

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Denver, CO Dec. 20 (AP by Robert Weller)--There's plenty of room at the inn in Aspen for Christmas, and some suites are going for $99 a night in the nation's glitziest resort.

Chic hotels in the Rockies, famed for their powder, are even offering rooms at early-season prices for their busiest two weeks of the season. The reasons for the apparent lack of interest, resort owners say, are Y2K and a snowless start to winter.

``It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these kinds of prices at this time of the year in the mountains,'' said Joan Christensen, spokeswoman for Winter Park. One luxury condo company is offering six-person lodgings for only $33 per person.

Snow is finally falling almost daily at many Colorado resorts and most have decent bases after enduring an unusually warm Indian summer followed by water torture-like snowfalls of two or three inches a day instead of the hoped-for dumps.

``People who are not tied to work are crazy not to take advantage of it,'' Ms. Christensen said, speaking by cellular phone as she shoveled freshly fallen snow from her driveway.

With reservations down 40 percent, many Park City, Utah, hotels and other lodgings, have cut rates by up to 50 percent.

Even with the new snow _ Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado picked up eight inches and Steamboat Springs, also in Colorado, got 18 inches in one day last week _ reservations remained down at many areas.

Y2K fears are also having an effect. Not only are some travelers wary of being away from home, but many companies are requiring workers to be on the job in case computers crash. Flights, cruises, concerts and other events are being canceled.

``People can have much of the Rockies to themselves while others are awaiting an X-File to unfold upon them,'' said Jim Felton of Breckenridge, referring to the scary Fox TV show.

Most years, rooms in Aspen and Vail are totally booked for the holidays months in advance and would cost upwards of $300 or more. Earlier this year, with many expecting hordes wanting to celebrate the end of the century at a resort, some hotels raised rates.

``Maybe we should've lowered rates and gone after a different market,'' said Patti Hess, of Resort Property Management in Park City.

Aspen spokeswoman Rose Abello said that no one needs to worry about being stuck at a resort without power. ``The good thing about the Y2K thing in the mountains is that we regularly operate with backup generators.''

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press