An American Airlines jet from Chicago lands at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in December 2009. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. released a 2011-12 ski season airline schedule Tuesday.

File photo

An American Airlines jet from Chicago lands at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in December 2009. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. released a 2011-12 ski season airline schedule Tuesday.

Steamboat airline program details announced

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By the numbers

Ski season airline program quick facts:

Started in 1986-87 ski season

Participating airlines: 4

Airports providing nonstop flights to Hayden: 7

Connecting airports: More than 200

— Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. released a 2011-12 ski season airline schedule Tuesday that shows a 4 percent increase in seats that weren’t available during last winter’s service. But the 122,700 airline seats still are the second fewest the market has seen since winter 2000-01.

“I’m happy we were able to add the 4 percent,” Ski Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer said. “It’s not where we want to be, but it’s moving in the right direction and definitely comes at a cost.”

The news of Steamboat’s challenge in securing the contracts that assure ski season jet flights comes as the Steamboat Springs City Council is poised to send a measure seeking a 0.25 percent citywide sales tax question to the voters in November. The revenue would be used to increase the airline program’s war chest for future ski seasons.

As of last winter, the resort community had lost more than 44,000 inbound seats throughout a four-year period despite increasing the revenue guarantees it promises airlines that fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the ski season. The 82,514 passengers who arrived in ski season 2010-11 were the fewest since the winter of 1995-96, and the available inbound seats, at 118,360, were the fewest since the winter of 1994-95. That was the year Continental Airlines pulled out of Denver, leading to the cessation of Continental Express flights at Steamboat Springs’ municipal airport.

The new schedule serves the same cities served last winter, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Newark, N.J., which together connect with more than 200 smaller markets domestically. Frontier Airlines is back for a second season with daily 90-passenger jet flights from Denver, producing some competition with United Express in that market.

The Steamboat resort community must provide minimum revenue guarantees to the four airlines that operate direct jet flights into YVRA. The total budget this year is $3.35 million, the highest it has ever been and $660,000 more than what Steamboat had to guarantee last winter.

The majority of the funds come from Ski Corp. and the proceeds of a 2 percent lodging tax collected within the Local Marketing District, which captures most of the community resort bed base. The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association contributes a little more than $100,000 collected from other member businesses as part of the Fly Steamboat program.

The actual amount the resort pays to the airlines is determined by the financial performance of each flight and won’t necessarily hit the full $3.35 million, but the local community still must budget for the full amount, Fischer said.

The biggest change this winter is the restoration of a 160-passenger United/Continental Boeing 737-800 on weekdays from Houston, replacing a smaller 737. That will added 46 seats a day for a total of 3,150 seats through the winter. The increase in seats from Houston offsets the elimination of a second weekend Boeing 757 from Dallas that arrived at YVRA late on Saturdays last winter and didn’t return to Dallas until Sunday morning.

Observing that Texas is by far Steamboat’s single greatest market, Fischer said increasing flights from Houston at the expense of Dallas was the most cost-effective option for Steamboat.

“Ultimately, we’d like to have all these pieces of our flight program,” Fischer said.

Winter 2011-12 flight schedule

Steamboat will gain 1,000 inbound seats next winter thanks to the leap year — flights will operate an extra day Feb. 29. And another 2,500 seats will be gained as Delta Airlines extends its service from Atlanta and Minneapolis from late March last ski season to April 1 this winter.

Fischer and Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond told members of the Yampa Valley Airport Commission last week that market forces including airline fleet reductions, rising fuel costs and airline mergers (which have reduced competition) have contributed to the rising cost of attracting leisure travelers to Steamboat.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

ride4fun 3 years, 1 month ago

The new schedule eliminates a previous early morning flight. Now the earliest you can get into Denver is 10am meaning you will miss a majority of the early flights out of Denver and you will consume a full day of travel to most destinations requiring a connection. Also, the 737 from Denver has been eliminated. This was a very reliable flight and the impact will be significant.

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gettinold 3 years, 1 month ago

First flight leaves HDN at 7:45 and gets into denver @ 8:35. Also the overnight from denver was a CRJ last winter as well which I used a couple of times without problem.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Here are the two key facts on the status of the airline program: "The 82,514 passengers who arrived in ski season 2010-11 were the fewest since the winter of 1995-96, and the available inbound seats, at 118,360, were the fewest since the winter of 1994-95."

The fundamental problem is the 35,746 empty seats out of 118,360 available. That means just 70% of inbound seats are occupied. That is simply unsustainable.

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

Got into Denver (last winter) just in time to make a United flight (I think about 11a.m.) but I was booked on the 4 p.m. flight. I asked the United rep if the 11a.m. flight was full and if not could I get on it. She said "no, it's not full but if you want to get on it will cost $75 for a change." I said you're kidding, you are going to charge me for an empty seat when I might be making room for someone on the 4 p.m. flight??? Yep! Wanted to hold me in DIA for 5 hrs instead of accommadating me PLUS making potential room on the next flight for someone else! Now lets see... If I was a tourist I could have gotten to town in time to ski a half day or to shop a half day (either way I'd be spending money). But, instead my choices were to give United my shopping/ skiing money or sit in DIA till the day is wasted so I can't do either. Uniteds policy on this sucks and they shouldn't get tax money if they are just gonna "shake down" travelers. Whats the point of having tourists come if an airline shakes them down before they arrive? Someone from Steamboat should take this kind of stuff up with United before kissing...

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sledneck 3 years, 1 month ago

There are 2 more empty seats on Aug 17th. I'm flying my mother and my wifes grangmother in from the east coast but I will pick them up in Denver rather than give $$$ to United.

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ybul 3 years, 1 month ago

So Scott as the fact man. What was the percentage of seats empty in all years? If the number of seats empty as a percentage is increasing, then the number of flights should be cut further (which would be my guess), but if the percentage is decreasing then maybe not - though it seems that the program is going to crash based upon the ever increasing need to subsidize.

On a side note would be as the number of seats has fallen has a similar decline in Pillows occurred (considering similar snowpacks) if not then it is absurd to not believe that putting people on the slopes can not be done another way. People have less disposable income and as energy and food inflation bites further this fall then the ski vacations will continue to look a little too luxurious.

Think outside the bun - and look at charter flight packages, or discounts on tickets for the number of nights that people stay - no matter where they stay. It is more expensive for friends to stay with us and ski many times than a package deal.

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mavis 3 years, 1 month ago

Really??? you have got to be kidding me.... the city is Really going to ask for a tax to support the mountain??? Try offering local season passes for a decent and respective amount and I bet they wouldn't need the tax from the locals. Numerous of us were once avid skiers and loved it. Now the prices are out of control. I don't want a hand out but there are other options in Steamboat these days that are by far more affordable and realistic for young families. And the number one reason why LOTS don't go to the mountain anymore. It is OVERPRICED. AND I bet there aren't going to be many supporters of this new "tax."

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

ybul, I do not have the data of seats used vs seats available for other years. From memory, I am pretty sure that 30% empty is worse than average.

Maybe I'll submit a open records request to the City to get that info since Pilot despite writing numerous articles and opinion pieces on the topic still sees no need to present information on how many seats are available vs how many are empty.

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