By the numbers
- 2008-09 airline program contribution
Total: $2.11 million
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.: $1.19 million
Local Marketing District: $790,000
Fly Steamboat: $130,000
- YVRA capacity
Total seats flown: 158,349, 2.7 percent decrease from 2007-08
Total number of passengers: 96,889, 12.9 percent decrease from 2007-08
Source: Andy Wirth, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs' airline program cost more than $2 million last ski season.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., the Local Marketing District and Fly Steamboat paid airlines $2.11 million to meet their guaranteed revenue agreements. Ski Corp. negotiates the guarantees with airlines the spring and summer before each season. If the airlines don't pull in a set amount of revenue from flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, the contributors pay the difference.
The $2.11 million topped the program's cost of $1.75 million in 2007-08. But the payment for last winter wasn't the highest, said Andy Wirth, Ski Corp.'s senior vice president of marketing. Contributors paid more than $2.4 million six or seven years ago, he said. The cost has been as low as $300,000.
"Running the program at $2.1 million was actually quite reasonable," Wirth said.
When Ski Corp.'s team negotiated flights last summer, crude oil was edging toward $150 a barrel (it traded at $71.42 Tuesday). That pushed costs up for airlines, and the flights were scheduled at higher prices. Ski Corp. worked with the airlines to lower those costs during the fall, as ski season approached.
But the revenue guarantees were negotiated to reflect the higher fares.
"We contracted at a very high time frame in terms of costs, and we were lowering fares to drive volume. : We were in the least favorable position," Wirth said. "But there were plenty of those across the landscape last fall."
The three contributors to the air program divvy up costs. The Local Marketing District is a taxing district that collects 2 percent on lodging across the city. That group paid about $790,000 to the air program and $400,000 to market it. Ski Corp. paid about $1.19 million, and the voluntary Fly Steamboat program paid about $130,000.
YVRA saw a decrease in passengers of about 12.9 percent for 2008-09 compared with 2007-08, Wirth said. Ski Corp. won't release skier visit numbers this year because "there's just no good reason to," he said, adding that measurements such as air travel are more important.
Wirth said he saw encouraging developments in the sky.
"I think what was of note in terms of top-performing markets this year, we gained substantial ground, and we flew more passengers out of Houston and Dallas," he said. "And actually, we're quite pleased with the performance there."
But Steamboat lost ground in Chicago and New York.
YVRA also saw the addition of Frontier Airlines in 2008-09. That airline provided flights from Denver outside the guaranteed revenue program and doesn't plan to return for the 2009-10 season.
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, spearheads the Fly Steamboat program. Through that, Chamber members pledge money to the air program. In exchange, they can buy discounted ski passes.
Evans Hall said participation decreased slightly for 2008-09 but that the drop was minimal. She didn't have numbers on hand but estimated that it was a few thousand dollars from a pool of more than $200,000.
This year, she said, she won't be sure how it goes until the merchant pass deadline hits, Aug. 15. An earlier deadline passed June 1. Some businesses were confused by that cutoff, Evans Hall said.
"It kind of caught them by surprise or they weren't prepared," she said. "We heard a lot of that as we were calling businesses. It doesn't mean they won't contribute; it just means maybe they'll make the contribution in August."
The Chamber aims to put $150,000 into the fund each year for the air program and $75,000 for YVRA. Evans Hall said she was pleased with last year's response.
"I thought it was really good," she said. "I thought everybody really pitched in last year, so hopefully we'll have a really good year this year."