Winter flights are over

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— Tourists and travelers flying into and out of Yampa Valley Regional Airport will see a change in their transportation this week as the big jets hang it up for the season.

Sunday was the last day for American, TWA and Northwest airlines, and Continental will end its ski season flights on Saturday. Although United will continue to service the Yampa Valley, it will go back to its regular twin-engine propeller planes.

Each year, travelers coming and going from the valley during mud season struggle to find inexpensive ways to get to and from Denver.

The period of time between the first week in April and the first week in June marks schedule and price changes for airlines, taxis and rental car companies.

Lianne Pyle, a travel consultant for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, said that despite the end of seasonal jet service, area travelers still have quite a few flights to choose from, but probably not for long. Typically, United cuts back to two flights a day during the off season, she said.

"United hasn't reduced its flight schedule yet, but we expect a major schedule change soon,"Pyle said. "The good news is that this year, United is being serviced by two carriers, Great Lakes Aviation and Air Wisconsin, and with two affiliates, we might get lucky this season."

"We usually see a very limited number of flights until June," she said. "We're always at United's mercy."

Although prices are always subject to change, United is currently charging $200 for a round-trip flight to Denver.Pyle said that that price is a mid-week price and often times she sees the number of available seats increase as mud season approaches.

"It's not that the rates go up, it's that there is a limited number of seats to purchase," she said. "The discounted seats go really fast, leaving the more expensive seats for people who haven't planned that far in advance. And, after those seats are gone, people will have to drive themselves, take Alpine Taxi or rent a car."

Alpine Taxi is offering shuttle service to Denver during mud-season, and the taxi service offers a local discount for passengers who have a valid Steamboat drivers license.

"Our regular rate is $60 one way or $110 round trip to Denver," reservationist Pam Rollett said. "People with a Steamboat drivers license can go to Denver for $54 one way or $99 round trip."

Until April 16, Alpine Taxi will send three shuttles each day to Denver and back, Rollett said. After April 16, the service will be cut back to two shuttles daily.

"We'll have two shuttles going to Denver daily. One leaves at 6 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m.," Rollett said. "For those people needing transportation from Denver to Steamboat, the shuttle will pick them up at noon or 5 p.m."

Rollett said that although the jet service into the valley has been discontinued, she hasn't seen a tremendous jump in the number of passengers going to Denver on Alpine Taxi.

"We have some reservations for April," she said. "People don't really have to book reservations with us that early in advance -- usually just about a week before they need a ride. We do require prepayment on all shuttle service, though."

Dollar Rent A Car out of Hayden offers car drop service to Denver, but agent Denise Wilstead said that it's expensive because the company has to drive to Denver to pick up the vehicle.

"There's a $150 drop fee plus $50 a day," she said. "The total to drive from Hayden to Denver and leave the car in Denver comes out to $209."

Travelers also have the option of renting a car to get to Denver and then bringing it back when they return home to the valley, Wilstead said.

"Until April 6, we charge $80 per day for a sport utility vehicle," Wilstead said. "After April 6 and until May 20, we charge $50 per day and offer 700 miles per week. Any mileage over 700 is $0.10 per mile."

Dollar Rent A Car has good availability of vehicles through mud season and offers weekly discounts. Wilstead said interested customers should call the office for more information.



-- To reach Bryna Larsen, call 871-4205 or e-mail blarsen@amigo.net

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