YVRA vet plans departure

After 21 years, Copeland trading in big jets for likeable llamas



TV18 Video: Ann Copeland of YVRA

Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal and operations manager Ann Copeland has family ties to the airport. Her grandparents sold their land to Routt County so the airport could be built. Ann watched the construction as a little girl from her grandparents' porch.

Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal and operations manager Ann Copeland has family ties to the airport. Her grandparents sold their land to Routt County so the airport could be built. Ann watched the construction as a little girl from her grandparents' porch.


Hayden native Ann Copeland is retiring after working at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport for 21 years. Since 2003, she has worked as the terminal and operations manager.

— Ann Copeland remembers being a young girl sitting on her grandparents' porch and gazing across a future runway as the Yampa Valley Regional Airport was being built in the 1960s.

Now, four decades later, she's finishing a career at the same airport and spending more time with her llama herd.

Copeland attended the airport's grand opening in 1966, and her grandparents, Rosella and Ernest Signs, were on the maiden Frontier Airlines flight at YVRA. They were given VIP treatment because they had sold their land to Routt County so the airport could be built.

Free helicopter rides were offered at the grand opening, which allowed Copeland an aerial view of her hometown, Hayden. The Hayden High School Band performed and visiting dignitaries from the state capitol made speeches.

"I might have gotten the aviation bug from that," said Copeland, who plans to retire May 31, after working at YVRA for the past 21 years. "The aviation thing just gets in your blood."

In recent years, Copeland once again has witnessed major construction at YVRA as the terminal and operations manager.

"It's been a pretty intense three or four years," she said, noting the airport just completed a $16 million expansion. "It's been worth it. Just look at what we've got. I feel good about being able to walk away now."

Several years ago she was given the challenge of improving customer service at the airport terminal and she took it on with characteristic enthusiasm.

Copeland said it is time to catch up on some sleep, be creative, get outside and "reconnect with family and to reconnect with life."

"This is what I'm going to do all summer," said Copeland, pointing to a fishing scene on her office wall.

She plans to spend more time on one of her hobbies, jewelry making.

"It just seemed like a good time to take a break : but I'm really going to miss it," Copeland said.

She also said she is going to build her llama outfitting business that serves the Flat Tops Wilderness. She owns 80 llamas.

Copeland first signed on at the airport in 1986, working mostly as a baggage handler for American Airlines. She became a manager for American's ground operations and in 2003 was offered the newly created position she holds today, a job she said requires her to be the "heartbeat of the terminal."

"Ann has been a part of the airport since its conception," said Sandy Evans Hall, who has worked closely with Copeland during the years as the executive vice president for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. "I see Ann as kind of living and breathing this airport for a long time."

Copeland's favorite coffee mug states "I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning," but her friends and airport staff are going to be the hardest thing to walk away from, she said.

"Even when it was bad, it was fun," she said, mentioning the times when passengers were stranded or without luggage for days because of a Denver blizzard. "I've made a lot of good, lasting friendships."

Large frames in Copeland's office contain photo collages of hundreds of current and past airport staff members.

"I think she is the rock of this airport, and I think she is going to be missed by all," said Transportation Security Administration manager Ann Doolin, who has worked with Copeland for 11 years. "You can go to her and she can answer a question on anything."

Custodian supervisor Nancy Pogline, who grew up with Copeland, said she was sad to hear she was leaving but envies her because "she's going to go play with her llamas. "

"She's awesome," Pogline said. "I'm really going to miss her. Hopefully she won't be a stranger and hopefully everything will run smooth when she's not here."

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com


kwlawton 9 years, 11 months ago

I started working with Ann when we established mainline Delta Air Lines service in Hayden back in 2003. The Yampa Valley Regional Airport is an amazing machine that cranks a tremendous amount of revenue into the local economy. I can say unequivocally that I have never worked with a more qualified individual with as much knowledge and wisdom on how to run an airport and any aspect of running an airline. We faced unbelievable challenges in our first year of operations at Hayden and working with Ann at my side it was actually fun to face some of the biggest challenges I ever faced in running an airline in my 25 years in the industry.
She is easy to communicate with and encourages input from all parties with a focus on delivering the best customer experience possible despite impossible situations, insufficient infrastructure and poor management support. If you need an airport operation to work and consistently work well, Ann is your go to person.
For over 20 years she made sure that the Steamboat Brand of friendly hospitality from the heart was underpinned by positively impacting every airline passenger's first and last impression of their mountain adventure trip.
Ann Copeland values and provides sage to all her colleagues so everyone understands what needs to happen, why we do what we do, where and when each step of the process needs to happen in order to "GIT'r DONE!"
Above all she listens to and cares about the ideas of everyone in her world and uses all available resources to act upon and actually improve your world.
Your community will sustain an enormous loss on June 1st, 2007 when she vacates her position with Routt County. Respectfully submitted, Kwintone Wade Lawton


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