Snow arrives with on-time jets

Holiday skiers arrive at airport with few problems

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— On what could prove to be the busiest day of the ski season, more than 2,700 holiday travelers made their way through Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Tuesday with barely a hitch. It was an improvement from Monday, when late-arriving planes temporarily clogged the baggage carousel.

On Tuesday, Steamboat Ski Area officials got their snow and skied it, too, as 3 to 7 inches of fluff fell on Mount Werner. Also Tuesday, most commercial jets due by midday had arrived on time -- and in some cases, a few minutes early.

"We had a perfect day," said Ann Copeland, manager of terminal and landside operations at YVRA, which serves the busy Steamboat resort area.

"I probably shouldn't say it, because we're supposed to have a huge snowstorm Thursday, and all of these people have to go home Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. So, knock on wood."

Janet Fischer, the Steamboat Ski Area's airline program director, said it wasn't a typical Tuesday at the airport. Ski area officials persuaded airlines to add extra flights Monday and Tuesday and again after New Year's Day to handle post-Christmas vacationers. That meant the airport received extra flights from Dallas, Houston, Newark, N.J., and Atlanta.

Monday's travel headaches were for reasons that had nothing to do with the local airport, Copeland said.

The Dallas flight had a mechanical problem, the Northwest Air--lines flight from Minneapolis had a delayed departure, and a third flight had to wait for a crew, Copeland said. Those delays shifted a big portion of the day's arriving passengers into the 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. time frame, when airport workers already were busy with arriving flights from Houston and Chicago. The resulting traffic temporarily overwhelmed YVRA's single baggage carousel.

"Fortunately, it goes fast," Copeland said. "They grab their bags, and they're out. All of the airlines had a little more issues than we'd like to have with baggage (on Monday)."

The airlines contract with a private company, Cowboy Carriers, as well as with Alpine Taxi and Storm Mountain Express to deliver delayed luggage to guests' accommodations, Copeland said. They also issue vouchers for ski equipment and clothing at area ski shops, she added. It's an acknowledgement that travelers don't want to miss out on a ski day because of luggage problems.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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