Passengers unload the Minneapolis Delta Connection flight Wednesday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Passengers unload the Minneapolis Delta Connection flight Wednesday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Unrelenting powder attracts large holiday crowd to slopes of Steamboat Ski Area

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Passengers pick up their luggage Wednesday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

— If it snows, they will come.

Steamboat Springs is preparing to host 13,500 guests Saturday night, enough to fill 91 percent of the resort’s lodging base.

“Snow makes marketing geniuses,” lodging executive Larry Mashaw quipped. “We’re pretty darned excited.” Mashaw is vice president of sales and marketing for Resort Group.

Mashaw said that Mountain Resorts has more than 400 rental condos and that they already are 98 percent full for Saturday night. He added that all of the private homes managed by Pioneer Ridge are full.

Mike Lomas, vice president and general manager of The Steamboat Grand, said his property is 97 percent full and will stay that way through Tuesday. After a brief respite, the Grand becomes very busy again for the long week of MusicFest.

"Jan. 10, I come up for air," Lomas said with a laugh.

Saturday night’s tourism numbers compare favorably to Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, when 12,100 guests were forecast to be in town Saturday and slightly fewer arrived. A storm system that virtually has stretched over two weeks has made the difference in 2012.

Mountain condos are expected to be 89 percent full Saturday night, mountain hotels are 97 percent full and downtown lodging is 90 percent full.

Winter Storm Euclid — which frosted Dallas with rare holiday snow, whipped up a record number of Christmas tornadoes in the Deep South and battered New York-area airports with wind Wednesday — appeared to have little effect on direct jet flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Inbound flights collectively were overbooked slightly with 1,002 arriving passengers expected, resulting in a 103 percent load factor.

An interactive airport delay map maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that by midafternoon Wednesday, most of the weather-related problems beyond Steamboat were concentrated in the New York/Newark and Philadelphia airports.

“It looks like those flights that may have been impacted by weather back east were later (Wednesday) afternoon after most guests would have started travels to Steamboat,” Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane wrote in an email. “Overall, the airport and staff are doing a fantastic job with inbound guests, especially with all the snow that has piled up in Ski Town USA.”

Some flights arrived here ahead of schedule Wednesday: The Delta 182-passenger 737-800 from Atlanta rolled up on the apron 11 minutes early at 11:48 a.m., and the 73-passenger Delta flight from Minneapolis also was a few minutes early.

The American Airlines 737-800 from Chicago had to be deiced in O’Hare, and it arrived an hour late.

Direct flights from Texas were late arriving, but weather was not the cause. The American Airlines 757 from Dallas scheduled to arrive at 12:45 p.m. was estimated to finally arrive at 2:59 p.m. and turn around for takeoff at 3:30 p.m., a little more than two hours late.

The flight was delayed by a mechanical issue in Dallas. The flight from YVRA to Dallas was one of the busiest return fights of the day after Christmas.

The United Airlines flight from Houston also was delayed, this time because of a change of aircraft. The plane was expected to arrive about 30 minutes late at 2:22 p.m.

What was harder to calculate was the number of airline passengers beyond the hub cities serving YVRA who may have been unable to travel out of their hometowns. But the FAA cited few weather impaired airports beyond New York City/Newark and Philadelphia.

Lane said Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. does not receive the details of passengers who might have missed their connections on their way to Steamboat.

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

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