By the numbers
Ski seasons at YVRA
December through March
14.7 percent decrease
12.5 percent decrease
Source: Yampa Valley
Steamboat Springs Yampa Valley Regional Airport experienced a season-over-season passenger decrease this year, but officials said they were pleased with how traffic shook out.
December through March deplanements, or arriving passengers, decreased 14.7 percent compared with the same period in 2007-08. December through March enplanements, or departing passengers, decreased 12.5 percent. Officials expect the flight capacity to decrease for the 2009-10 ski season.
Airport Manager Dave Ruppel hastened to say that 2007-08 was a banner season.
"If we look at the last five years, (2008-09) was about an average year for us," he said.
Early in the season, YVRA officials expected the numbers to be worse than the final tallies showed, Ruppel said.
"In December looking at it, we were thinking we might see those numbers up in the plus-20 area," he said about the decrease in flight loads. "As things developed, we found that more people traveled than what we had expected. The bookings just didn't happen until right before people traveled."
Although traffic didn't plummet, people's spending patterns appear to have changed, Ruppel said.
"The impact is felt more strongly on some of our concessions," he said. "And we don't have all those figures yet, but what it looks like so far is, the gift shop and the restaurant were hit pretty hard."
The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. team that helps negotiates, the air program has reacted by talking with airlines about trimming capacity, Andy Wirth said. Wirth is chief marketing officer at Intrawest, Ski Corp.'s parent company. He's slated to return to Steamboat in June as senior vice president of sales and marketing.
Janet Fischer, Ski Corp.'s airline program director, was out of town and not available for comment. Ski Corp. is in final negotiations with airlines, Wirth said. He expects capacity to decrease 6 to 8 percent for the 2009-10 ski season.
"In some situations, we're making what I'd call tactical downgrades of capacity," Wirth said.
No flights will be cut, he said, but some will arrive and depart on smaller airplanes. In figuring out those formulas, the team looked at February and March loads, Wirth said. The capacity also could change depending on what Frontier Airlines does. The airline added service to and from Denver last year.
"As far as operations went, they did a good job, and I think the community appreciated having them," Ruppel said.
Frontier isn't part of Steamboat's airline program and isn't expected to be, Wirth said. Through that program, airlines' revenues are guaranteed by Ski Corp., the Local Marketing District and businesses that participate in the Fly Steamboat program run by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.
The flight schedule for next season should be ready by late May or early June. July is the big booking period for return visitors, Wirth said.
Passengers who have filtered through YVRA in Hayden have reacted positively to improvements, Wirth said.
"Everybody from the ground crews to the folks at the ticket counters to airport management itself to the guys driving the plows out on the runway, the airport performed magnificently this past year," he said.
For now, only two United Express flights to Denver are running on a daily basis, Ruppel said. That will increase to three in June. Delta Air Lines is not running a Salt Lake City flight this summer, he said.
Wirth said he was pleased with the winter air program and the groups that work within it.
"We're still looking at nine cities, six carriers, and we're able to stick to our guns in these markets," Wirth said. "We're quite proud of that."
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