Ski area wants two more weeks of jets

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— Officials of the Steamboat Ski and Resort corp. say they are taking unprecedented steps to strengthen the very end of the ski season.

Ski Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said Thursday the ski area is talking to United Airlines about the possibility of extending daily 86-passenger jet flights through the end of the ski season.

And the ski area has purchased four commercial spots to air nationally this weekend during NBC's coverage of the World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Wirth said talks with the airline are still in the preliminary stages but are focused on the British Aerospace 146 aircraft after the airline informed him it could not extend daily 737-300 flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport from Denver International.

Flights on the smaller BAE 146 were originally scheduled to end April 1, but ski corp. officials are trying to negotiate terms to continue those flights through the last day of the ski season on April 15.

Wirth said the resort outlook for March "is really a mixed bag." He reported earlier this month that demand for airlines seats into the Yampa Valley during the middle of the month is outstripping their availability. But the last week of March and the first week of April have not firmed up.

The ski corp. officials made their decision to purchase the commercial spots on NBC within a span of 48 hours after they were approached by the network, Wirth said.

The commercial spots aren't geared specifically to the ski experience at Steamboat, but to the overall winter experience, Wirth added.

They will wrap up with a special offer of a free fourth day of skiing and fifth night of accommodations at Steamboat.

Wirth said he was not at liberty to say how much the network advertising will cost but that the contract with NBC represents a good value.

"The deal came to us as distressed inventory," because major corporate sponsors like Sprint and Chevy Trucks did not buy all of the air time for the World Championship programming, Wirth said.

Steamboat Public Relations Director Mike Lane said even at a discount price, network television is still an expensive buy.

But he said he believes if the commercial spots do what the ski corp. expects them to, the ads will be well worth the price.

Lane said the ski corp expects to reach 5 million households with its message.

The ski corp. will use a special toll-free number to promote its special at the end of the commercial spots, and in that way, track response to the ads.

NBC's coverage of the World Alpine Championships is scheduled to air on KUSA TV Channel 9 in Denver from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday and again from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

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