Steamboat Springs Dave Thorp flew the Minneapolis to Yampa Valley route on Northwest Airlines so many times that a business plan emerged from his ski vacations.
Thorp and his brother, Steve, are partners in Hayden Airport Garages, LLC. They plan to begin construction this summer on a series of steel buildings that will house the first 56 of 147 garages approved by the town of Hayden. Already, reservations have been placed on 51 of the 56 garages.
Thorp said his prospective purchasers here include 10 pilots of private planes. But the majority of the interest comes from owners of single-family vacation homes who don't have the luxury of private airport shuttles operated by condominium management companies.
"Many are second-home owners from other parts of the country who fly in commercially and want to drive their own cars to Steamboat," Thorp said.
Thorp said some of his buyers are real estate speculators who expect the value of the garages to increase. One man at Eagle County Airport purchased garages for each member of his family.
"We have had a number of people (reserve) four, five or six garages," Thorp said. "One man bought four and gave one to each of his three kids so they would comes see him more often at his place in Vail."
Hayden Airport Garages offers a mix of basic garages able to accommodate SUVs with larger RV garages that can contain campers, boats, horse trailers or multiple cars. The former are priced at $39,900 and the latter are
priced at $69,900 for a 14-foot by 45-foot garage, and $89,900 for an 18-foot by 45-foot space. In addition, owners will be charged a monthly association fee of $40 for the car units to cover the cost of heating the garage, snow removal and a shuttle driver to ferry owners back and forth from the airport terminal.
Hayden Airport Garages will be built on private land adjacent to the airport. Thorp said the parcel is about two-tenths of a mile from the terminal. The brothers have enough land to build another 91 garages.
They have already successfully tested their concept at Eagle County Airport serving Vail. All 130 of the airport garages in their first phase in Eagle County have been sold.
The Thorp brothers are encouraged enough that they have purchased a site close to the Montrose airport to serve Telluride. They also have sites in Salt Lake City and Heber City, Utah, to accommodate people flying in to enjoy vacation homes at Park City.
Dave Thorp said he has investigated warm weather resort destinations, but has observed large, inexpensive outdoor parking lots at airports in Florida.
"I think (our success) may be tied to the cold weather," he said.
Each steel building at Hayden Airport Garages will be heated by its own furnace to a temperature in the 40s or low 50s, Thorp said. Each garage will be charged with a battery charger.
Owners will be able to call ahead to make an appointment with a part-time shuttle driver to meet their flights at the terminal or meet them at their garages to drive them to passenger check-in.
There are creature comforts, too. The Eagle County Airport Garages, which are $10,000 more expensive because of the higher cost of land, boast a handsome wood frame owners' lounge. Hayden Airport Garages won't be quite as fancy - the lounge will occupy one end of a steel garage building. However, the inside will be just as plush, with leather chairs, a sofa and a gas fireplace.
Thorp, who has built a home here and plans to keep his boat in one of the garages, said the units don't generate a great deal of traffic.
"People tend only to come in and out four to six times a year," he said.
When your time in the Yampa Valley is limited, convenience is at a premium.