Texas fans keep airport busy

January traffic makes a big impression on airport veteran

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Hook 'em Horns was the mantra of the day at Yampa Valley Regional Airport at midday Wednesday. Excited young travelers deplaned from Houston and Dallas in time to check into their condos and watch tonight's Rose Bowl tilt between the University of Texas and the University of Southern California.

As soon as they entered the terminal, they were flashing UT's singular two fingered salute at one another; burnt orange was certain to be the color of the evening at sports bars such as Slopeside Grill, Steamboat Smokehouse and The Tap House.

Wednesday marked a big changeover day at the airport and the resort as more than 1,000 holiday travelers boarded planes to go home and begin the new year in earnest.

Even more mid-week travelers arrived at the airport, which serves the Steamboat Springs resort; almost 1,100 people poured into the airport Wednesday.

"We've got to be setting some records," Ann Copeland said. "I've worked here 19 years, and I've never seen anything like this."

Copeland is the manager of terminal and landside operations at the airport.

The airport totaled 23,763 January arrivals in 2005 compared with 22,588 in January 2004.

Many of Wednesday's arrivals were college students hoping to combine fresh powder and the Americana music acts being presented from Wednesday to Monday during the MusicFest at Steamboat. The musical event is packaged by Dickson Productions and is open only to its clients.

Five inches of snow was reported at Steamboat Ski Area as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, with most of it having fallen since dawn.

The snowstorm in Steamboat didn't affect aircraft landing 23 miles to the west. However, one early arriving jet from Min--neapolis contributed to a crush at the baggage carousel during the noon hour.

A pair of Boeing 737's and a 124-passenger Northwest Airlines Airbus 319 from the Twin Cities were all on the ground at the same time Wednesday. The Northwest flight was 17 minutes ahead of schedule when it touched down at 12:45 p.m. The Continental Airlines flight was 17 minutes late, and the daily flight from Salt Lake City on Delta was 15 minutes late.

Put them all together, and 300 to 400 passengers arrived at one baggage carousel within 30 minutes of one another. Less than an hour later, a late-arriving 180-passenger American Airlines 757 from Dallas landed 25 minutes before a 757 from Chicago.

"At least when they arrive, they're ready to vacation," Copeland said. "They're excited, and they're happy."

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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