Steamboat contemplates Atlanta flights

Delta plans low fares from California

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Resort officials are studying the possibility of adding more direct flights from Atlanta on Delta during the peak weeks of ski season this winter.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. marketing executive Andy Wirth said Monday the pace of reservations on the Saturday-only flight led him to begin talks with Delta officials about the possibility of adding a second flight on key Saturdays in February and March. He said the flights on 183-seat passenger Boeing 757's are nearly 50 percent full for the entire ski season.

"The Atlanta flights could already be described as a tremendous success," Wirth said. "Clearly this flight has tapped into tremendous demand in the Southeast. Of course, we don't know yet if it represents incremental growth" over last winter's airline program.

This winter will mark the first time Delta has served Yampa Valley Regional Airport, about 20 miles west of Steamboat. In addition to the weekly flight from Atlanta, Delta will operate a daily flight on a 737 from Salt Lake City. The airline made test runs and practiced landings at the airport Monday.

Although Wirth called advance reservations on the Salt Lake flight "encouraging," he acknowledged, "there has not been a lot of pace yet," and did not release the percentage of seats sold.

Load factors and current demand for the weekly flight from Atlanta do not compare directly to demand for the daily Salt Lake City flight, Wirth said.

Wirth acknowledged that flights to Steamboat through Delta's Utah hub would have to compete on price with discount airline Southwest, which has a major presence in Salt Lake City. Southwest is very competitive in the Salt Lake airport from many of the same California markets that Steamboat is targeting.

Wirth said Delta recently agreed to some steeply discounted roundtrip fares into YVRA through Salt Lake from California destinations. Some retail fares in ski season will be close to $200 depending upon the city of origin, Wirth said.

Steamboat's daily service from Salt Lake has not escaped the attention of the three ski areas grouped around Park City, Utah. The Canyons, under the same ownership as Steamboat, Park City and Deer Valley, are all about 30 minutes from the airport in Salt Lake. Park City Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Malone recently described Steamboat's Salt Lake flights as a "reach" in an interview with the Park Record newspaper.

Malone, who formerly held a similar position with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, told Steamboat Today his resort has launched a campaign touting the ability of California skiers to arrive in Salt Lake in the morning and hit the slopes that afternoon. Malone said he questioned why skiers would fly beyond the airport in Salt Lake to ski in Colorado.

Wirth countered that Steamboat's strong brand and stature as one of the top-five resorts in North America (SKI magazine readers poll), was sufficient to attract skiers.

Steamboat is also confident it can pull skiers from the east through the Salt Lake Airport.

"It's working well for us as a secondary (to Denver) hub," Wirth said. "We are getting weekly reports from Delta, and they are telling us the number of people booking from points east is higher than original projections."

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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