Tom Kern: A real impact


Although I have lived in Steamboat Springs for only 30 days as a full-time resident, I have been coming here since 1973. Those first trips always required a layover in Denver or a post-flight three-hour drive. Beginning in the late ’80s, I started flying direct into Hayden. During the last 25 years, my family has been a direct beneficiary of the winter air service program.

In September, I started at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and learned that the community was working on a program to regain lost air service. I immediately became involved. As a former visitor, I know how important this service is to our winter guests, and now as a resident, I know how important it is to our local economy.

The 0.25 percent increase in sales tax that Referendum 2B proposes is a small price to pay for the benefit it provides our community.

Here are some facts for you to consider regarding this program.

■ The proposed 0.25 percent sales tax increase means you will pay 25 cents additional tax on each $100 of goods or services purchased. In a typical year, an individual will pay an additional $15 to $20.

■ Approximately 50 percent of all city sales tax revenues are generated by visitors. Fifty percent of this new tax also will be paid by visitors.

■ Each winter visitor who flies directly into our community spends approximately $1,100 while in town. Of that $1,100, approximately $860 is spent locally on goods and services. That $860 also generates $72 in sales tax that supports the community services we all desire.

■ The number of seats in our air service program has decreased from 160,000 during the 2007-08 ski season to 120,000 seats in 2010-11 ski season. The loss of 40,000 seats equates to a loss of roughly $44 million to our local economy. The proposed air service program will get our airline seat count back to approximately 150,000 in the next five years. Those new seats mean new economic activity for our community, which means more jobs for our residents.

■ The proposed air service program requests public support for a five-year period, at which time the tax will sunset.

The economic impact on Steamboat Springs and the convenience of direct air service for our winter visitors are indisputable. I know that personally from being one of those visitors, and I know it now from being a full-time resident.

I urge you to support Referendum 2B in this election.

Tom Kern

Chief executive officer, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association


Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

How does the loss of empty seats cost the local economy $44M a year? If over 30% of the seats were empty last winter then why would 40,000 additional seats have been expected to bring in 40,000 more tourists and not have been largely empty?

Apparently, the program has been incompetently run in previous years because the new Chamber CEO knows how to 100% fill 40,000 additional airline seats. Or maybe he is lying to get the public to support dedicating a tax stream to his organization.

And what public oversight is there of the program? I have been unable to get basic information on how much it cost to subsidize the various flights.

When the Chamber puts out lies suggesting that 44,000 more seats will result in 44,000 more tourists when current program has so many empty seats then we should reject increasing taxes to benefit a confidential program that doesn't trust the public enough to be honest.


cindy constantine 5 years, 6 months ago

Very disappointing, Mr. Kern, when you have been here such a short time and have met very few of our long time locals. You are asking the LOCAL residents to support a tax year around for 5 years for a private corporation to do business for 4 months with no transparency or public oversight of the taxpayer dollars. If Aspen pays NO airline guarantees and are also a destination ski resort something is just not right with our program. If our ski resort had competitive lift ticket prices considering our very "tired" on mountain facilities and base area construction, the planes would be filled with the discount shopper. The reality is our winter business is decreasing yearly as our summer tourist business increases without any summer subsidies of the airlines. BTW I just bought 8 lift tickets offered to Colorado residents for Copper Mountain for $218.00. If I did my math correctly that comes out to $27 a ticket. And frankly, Copper is a great mountain to ski. Time for a reality check here in Steamboat!!!!


steamboatsprings 5 years, 6 months ago

Tom makes some excellent points. Our economy and the amenities it provides is dependent on on tourism and the air program is key to that. Nearly every business person understands this and a quick conversation with most resort workers and those that serve them in their jobs quickly makes the links. For the rest it isn't about the tax since the amount is nominal it is about other agendas.

Unless you stay at home, use no city services, none of our amenities that require tourism dollars to exist, don't have any friends whose job or business relies on tourism dollars the tax is a great value to maintain our economic base, friends job and thus way of life.

If you enjoy Copper Mtn that is great but Steamboat's distance from the crowds along I-70 makes us special and is worth paying for. You can't have both in the same place.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 6 months ago

Steamboatsprings, Do you work for the Chamber? At the very least, it is awfully presumptuous to pick a "steamboatsprings" as your name as if you represent everyone here.

Well, a nominal tax here and a nominal tax there and eventually it adds up to real money.

And neither Cindy or myself said that tourism should go away. The question is whether this is an effective use of our tax dollars. When the CEO of the Chamber claims that adding 44,000 more seats will result in 44,000 more tourists then something is very wrong. He could be totally ignorant of the facts of the program. He could be delusional and think with him as CEO of the Chamber that would actually happen. Or he could be a liar trying to win an election for this measure.

Regardless, so far a very good argument for not giving tax money for this.


addlip2U 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr Kern:

Some of your members have been working on a program for the community to establish a $5 million "reserve" fund through a 0.25% sales tax to support the winter air program, however if the winter air program is "needed" or "wanted" by your members you should be assessing your members $1M/yr for the next 5 years!

In the past few years, your members (other than Ski Corp) have paid very little to support the winter air program through their voluntary contributions.

The lodging business community does not pay the local marking's their customer's who pay that tax.

In addition, winter visitors pay no sales tax on any of those lift tickets sold to them by Ski Corp.

It's time for your members and Ski Corp to fund the winter air program to the level they "want" or "need"!

Interestingly, Ski Corp did not propose a lift ticket tax as a means to support the winter air program.


Sam Jones 5 years, 6 months ago

Scott's point is a good one and is ,as of yet, unanswered. We are in a deflationary economic cycle with households cutting back on spending, including trips to our magical kingdom. More seats on the plane does not mean they will be filled. Ours is a demand problem, not a supply problem. Seems like an illogical Field of Dreams - If you build it... they will come. I recognize the nature of our community, so let's be a resort and spend our effort in marketing. To fix the demand problem and perhaps sidestep the airline's demand for cash, it seems we might consider doubling our effort at attracting more front range traffic. I-70 is a mess for Vail, Aspen and Summit skiers, good thing they can get here through Winter Park (wink). they will spend the same amount on lodging, food and who knows maybe they'll even buy a condo.


cindy constantine 5 years, 6 months ago

If you are against taxpayer bailouts at the national level, how can you possibly support REF 2B? Ski Corp chose to raise prices across the board in a worsening economy with nothing new to offer the guests---same marginal bathrooms, tired restaurants, Four Points a base area still under construction, etc. We are ranked 15th but are in the highest bracket of ski passes. What about lowering the cost of skiing to appear to be the value play we truly are until the mountain improves? That would most likely increase the loads on the planes, which would fill more condos, restaurants and the streets downtown. At the very least, DO NOT PUT THIS BURDEN on the locals. I didn't notice the tube renters coming to City Council for a sales tax increase when they all but lost their summer business. WHY didn't ski corp ask for the bed tax to be increased? Pay to play so to speak and not ask the local residents for a tax bailout which we will pay for year around for 5 years???


Kevin Chapman 5 years, 6 months ago


Don't raise our sales tax to pay for something tourism could pay for on it's own.


vanguy 5 years, 6 months ago

It seems to me that the success of tourism benefits a lot more businesses and jobs than just the Ski Corp and the Lodging Companies. Yet, more than 95% of air service funding has come solely from these two groups up to this point.

Most people I know who live in Steamboat (and actually work for a living) seem to understand the direct connection between their paychecks and the dollars spent by tourists.

This culture is why Steamboat has such a great reputation for hospitality, when compared to other mountain destinations. This culture is why visitors come back for repeat visits.

As a community, let us NEVER lose sight of the fact that the paying traveler has a choice whether or not to visit Steamboat. It also never hurts for locals to remind Ski Corp. of this fact every once in awhile.

Air service is our lifeline as a resort community.

If it is a pain in the A$$ to get here, there are certainly more convenient destinations for people to take a ski vacation.

Non-rental second homeowners and timeshare resorts like Wyndham don't contribute any LMD tax revenue because there isn't a lodging transaction involved. Yet, these two sub-groups alone consume hundreds of air seats every week.

And how many VRBO rentals aren't paying their lodging taxes?? The city could make a small fortune investigating this issue...but I digress.

I believe the 2B Tax is a great way for non-rental tourists to contribute to air our service, especially those that use the service and don't currently help pay for it.

Me, personally, I'm voting for 2B.

I admittedly waste at least $20 every week on stupid stuff I really don't need.

I'd gladly give this community $20 a year to help secure air service, if it means that me and my friends will continue to have jobs, maybe even experience some career growth someday.

I'd gladly give this community $20 if it means our businesses can afford to stay open year-round.

Most importantly, I'd gladly give this community $20 so that, as my parents get older, and travel becomes more difficult for them, there is still a convenient and affordable way for them to fly to Hayden and visit their grandchildren from time to time.


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