Jeff Daniels: Debunking opposition


I moved to Steamboat in April 2000. Shortly after starting my career with Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., I started traveling in July 2000 with Janet Fischer, Andy Wirth and now Rob Perlman to airline meetings with American, Continental, United, Northwest, TWA, Delta and Frontier. I have attended virtually every substantive meeting with the airlines for the past 11 years. The list of cities and airlines has grown considerably shorter thanks to industry consolidation, but the team involved with establishing and maintaining those relationships on this end has changed very little. It is from this perspective that I feel obligated to contribute to the conversations surrounding Referendum 2B, and hopefully to dispel some of the myths that may affect how some yet-to-be decided voters cast their ballot.

First and foremost, visit for a high-level overview of the issues at hand.

Of the recurring objections that I have either heard or read, a few are worth addressing:

■ Objection: Steamboat’s airline program is underperforming compared to Vail/Eagle.

First, the Eagle County Airport serves many resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Snowmass and others. By comparison, the combined skier-day totals dwarfs Steamboat Springs as a standalone resort. These resorts command a higher household demographic, which translates to higher airline ticket yields, and it’s not an accurate analogy.

■ Objection: Let’s focus on filling the empty seats that are already flying.

Steamboat’s strong family brand means guests prefer to travel around holidays, when kids are off school and when the flights are already full. To quote an airline executive, “We don’t run a candy store.” What he meant is that you can’t cherry pick dates and times that you want to operate flights. Flying to Steamboat with an irregular schedule that eliminates wasted seats for us actually costs the airlines more money. There is some flexibility around weekends and peak holidays, but those opportunities have already been fully realized with our current flight schedule to YVRA.

■ Objection: Steamboat should forgo destination skiers and target drive customers.

This is my favorite objection, primarily because this is the area where the most evidence lies contradicting this strategy. Steamboat’s destination guests (those who board an airplane to get here) are worth three times that of a Colorado overnight guest. Do we think that we can replace each destination visitor with three Front Range customers?

■ Objection: If taxpayer dollars are used to support airline guarantees, then taxpayers should have greater transparency with regard to the process of negotiating operating costs, selecting schedules and prioritizing originating nonstop markets to the airport.

Airline operating costs are determined long before anyone from Steamboat sits down with a partner airline. Wage and work-rule contracts, fuel prices and aircraft leases are just a few of many major expenses that are considered by the airlines when determining base flight costs. The airlines roll up these costs and add an acceptable margin of profitability, and that’s the cost. Once the pricing is complete, Ski Corp. Director of Airline Programs Janet Fischer builds a menu of potential scheduling scenarios and presents them in detail at a public meeting of the Local Marketing District. Input from LMD board members is solicited, and it’s back to work on refining the scenarios. This process is repeated until a final schedule is agreed upon by the LMD, partner airlines and Ski Corp. This is also the same public process that has taken place for the past six years, and it will continue to function this way into the future. I want to emphasize that LMD meetings are open to the public.

Air accessibility benefits our community and a vast majority of its residents. I am passionate about Steamboat and the bright future that a healthy and growing tourism base affords us, and that is why I urge you to vote “yes” on Referendum 2B.

Jeff Daniels

Manager of Steamboat Central Reservations

for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.


Clay Ogden 5 years, 5 months ago


Thank you for taking the time to lay out some interesting and verifiable perspectives.

Although I wish our economy was less dependent on tourism for foreseeable future it simply is ... bikers, skiers, hunters, softball ... they all contribute. Like it or not, until something changes, we are sales tax dependent and tourism contributes heavily to the government income collecting entities that provides the services we seem to appreciate and enjoy.

Should we diversify? Sure. But in a weak economy we should reinforce what we historically have done well with.

I agree ... vote "yes" on Referendum 2B.


cindy constantine 5 years, 5 months ago

Interesting letter Jeff, but you forget that there are other funding mechanisms that should take priority over sales tax on the locals. Unlike other ski resorts our economy is much more diverse and frankly the summer tourism factor in Steamboat is much more varied than any other ski resort. Hence, the growth of tourism the other 8 months of the year while the winter declines. The tourist understand they must "pay to play." Just like when we, as locals, go to beach resorts. The bed tax could be higher, surcharges at the airport. Any number of options where the tourist pays to guarantee the flights. VOTE NO ON 2B---there is a better way to fund the airline program and WE HAVE THE TIME TO LOOK AT OTHER OPTIONS!!!!!


BeCoolHoneyBunny 5 years, 5 months ago

Clear, Logical, nice work.

My objections to 2B:

  1. Why is Ski Corps max contribution capped at 1.3 million?
  2. More seats do not always equal more passengers.
  3. Higher sales taxes could equal less spending in town.

ybul 5 years, 5 months ago

■ Objection: Steamboat should forgo destination skiers and target drive customers.

This is my favorite objection, primarily becase this is the area where the most evidence lies contradicting this strategy.

  • Do all destination guests get here via flying into Yampa Valley Regional Airport? Probably not and yes those that do come from the front range spend less. Though considering gas is approaching $4/gallon again, it seems to be that people cut further put the brakes on discretionary spending.

■ Objection: Let’s focus on filling the empty seats that are already flying.

Steamboat’s strong family brand means guests prefer to travel around holidays, when kids are off school and when the flights are already full.

Yep, then go after a different demographic, drop ticket prices for mid week multi day passes in the off season as opposed to dropping airfare to encourage those skiers. There are ZERO deals on ticket prices to encourage business during slow times. Maybe if ski corp marketed discounted tickets during slow times more front rangers would come - or destination vacationers (who are also price shoppers) that know they ski for less this time of year as opposed to trying to find a deal on airfare, hotel or whatever to fit into their holiday schedule (increasing the bed tax for the air program) Seems the only discounts come via hotels and restaurants.

Reminds me of my biggest complaint is that friends have visited some Aprils and were able to stay for less money at a ski corp hotel for less than with us - when all they had to buy was a ticket (probably saved me money as we did not cook every meal for them).

Heck look at marketing into KC where it is just as fast to Drive here as it is to fly. There are lots of skiers there and no direct flights. They drive here save the $2000 on a family of fours airfare and can drop that money in restaurants or elsewhere.

Market to the crazies who drive here from Dallas and reimburse them for fuel, give them $.02 off their daily ticket price for how far they drive.

What worked in the past may not pan out in the future.

See about charter jet flights into the boat from Dallas that hold 10-20 people fly into a non commercial airport where people do not need to be patted down to board the plane.

Lets just double down with the taxpayers money as this is how we do it. Yet thinking outside the room the box is in might provide the ski area with a competitive advantage over all other ski areas.


captnse 5 years, 5 months ago

Using my tax money to subsidise you and Ski corp is wrong. Taxes are the way Municipalities pay for schools, police and fire protection, Roads, water, and sewer. PERIOD. Tax the Tourist with higher bed tax and not the Locals. Lower lift price and skiers might Come to Stmbt. Sp. on their own accord.


steamboatsprings 5 years, 5 months ago

Jeff, thank you for an explanation based on facts. This is a vital issue to our community and the amenities we all enjoy. We can't just stick our heads in the ground and hope for it to solve itself. This tax is shared by locals and visitors because we all benefit from the business, jobs and amenities we rely on. $20 or $30 a person is a very small price to pay.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 5 months ago

So it is unreasonable to compare ourselves to Vail? Maybe somebody should mention that to the LMD and Chamber so they don't use comparisons to Vail to justify being given tax dollars.

Well, that is a heck of a definition of transparency. Ski Corp. Director of Airline Programs Janet Fischer reports to whom? Does that person or that person's boss sit on the LMD? That sort of transparency is like saying a 4 inch thick concrete wall is transparent because it has 8 less inches of concrete than a 12 inch thick concrete wall.

It is so transparent that the Chamber's new CEO claims that 44,000 more seats will bring in 44,000 more passengers. And yet Mr Daniels argues that empty seats are as good as it gets. Maybe Mr Daniels and the Chamber's CEO whom, I believe is on the LMD, should have a meeting where the realities of the flight program can be explained to the Chamber.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 5 months ago

BTW, a transparent LMD board receiving tax dollars would, by definition, have no one from Ski Corps because that is an obvious huge conflict of interest. Probably should also not have anyone from the Chamber for similar conflicts of interest.


exduffer 5 years, 5 months ago

By that reasoning Scott the LMD board should be made up entirely of people from Newton Iowa.


Scott Wedel 5 years, 5 months ago

Exduffer, No, 99% of SB or County would not have no such conflicts of interest. But with tax dollars you simply cannot have people deciding to give the money to their employers.

This would be like putting Fred Duckels on the Base Area URA board and expect him to vote on which projects that Duckels Construction should be paid to do each year.

I presume that current LMD is acting legally with regards to conflict of interest, but it certainly is not transparent or without inherent conflicts of interest to have Ski Corps management on the LMD board. And if the LMD gives money that is spent by the Chamber then Chamber employees on the LMD also have unacceptable conflicts of interest.


cindy constantine 5 years, 5 months ago

Scott and Ex--

The whole issue of who is on the LMD Board is secondary to the whole issue of the appropriateness of this funding mechanism. As has been pointed out on another thread this is a totally REGRESSIVE tax effecting the middle and lower classes in this community. Look at the bills for the necessities FOOD, GAS, ELECTRIC, PHONE bills will all be effected by this tax increase. If you are flying in to Steamboat with the family for a ski vacation, you can certainly afford to foot the bill for bringing in extra seats. WHAT WAS COUNCIL THINKING WHEN THEY PUT THIS INITIATIVE ON THIS BALLOT-- Oh, wait I know, THEY WEREN'T THINKING!!!


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