Yampa Valley Airport sees first season arrivals

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— The ski season started four days early at Steamboat on Nov. 18, but for hundreds of resort workers eager to pull more shifts, the season doesn't begin in occupational terms until the first ski season jet flights begin to arrive.

The first flight of the year, a Continental 737 from Houston, landed at Yampa Valley Regional Airport shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday. Airport officials could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman from Alpine Taxi said the jet landed and was met by Alpine's ground transportation fleet.

Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane said four busloads of college students from Illinois arrived at Steamboat this week for their holiday break.

"I think the arrival of the jets definitely signifies the arrival of the resort season," Lane said.

Friday marks the inaugural jet flights of the winter from Denver, with a United 737-300 capable of carrying 126 passengers scheduled to arrive at 12:16 p.m. United is also scheduled to operate two flights, one arriving at 8:40 a.m. and another at 6:40. p.m., using British Aerospace 146 jets that can carry 86 passengers.

Also on Friday, American airlines flies its first Boeing 757 from Dallas into YVRA. That flight is scheduled to arrive 12:24 p.m.

Continental airlines operates its first flight out of Newark, N.J., on Saturday, with the 757 scheduled to arrive 11:10 a.m.

A variety of local businesses have pledged more than $750,000 this year to augment the flight guarantees the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. must pay the airlines to ensure the jets fly to YVRA this winter. The ski area is contributing about $1.4 million.

Last ski season, 150,000 round-trip seats flew in and out of YVRA, and about 100,000 passengers booked flights on the aircraft. Available seats this winter are about 11 percent below last year's numbers.

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