At a glance
Roundtrip direct flights from Los Angeles on Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 22 to March 24
■ Departs Los Angeles at 12:45 p.m. and arrives in Hayden at 3:38 p.m.
■ Departs Hayden at 4:20 p.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 5:28 p.m.
Steamboat Springs With an eye down under, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. on Friday announced new direct ski season flights from Yampa Valley Regional Airport to Los Angeles International Airport with roundtrips on a 66-passenger jet Saturdays and Sundays beginning Dec. 22.
It’s no secret that resort officials have coveted opening up a new air portal to the West Coast. But Ski Corp. Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman confirmed that the timing of the flight was chosen to allow easy connections for the growing number of Australian travelers coming to Steamboat for winter vacations.
“We’ve wanted to open up the West, and this is an opportunity to do that with our good partners at United Airlines,” Perlman said. “International travelers, particularly from Australia, will experience the benefits of this flight with convenient one-stop connections in both directions.”
Ski Corp. officials have seen the number of Australians coming here for extended trips grow dramatically until they now represent half of international visitors.
Ski area President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond told a Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association audience in March that of all skier visits in the 2010-11 ski season, 12 percent were from outside the United States. And of those 12 percent, 45 percent were from Australia.
Perlman updated that number Friday.
“That number grew to more than 50 percent this year,” he said. The Aussie trend here is all the more notable, Perlman said, because the United Kingdom, not Australia, is easily the No. 1 area of origin for international skiers coming to Colorado.
Perlman said eliminating the need to fly from the West Coast to Denver before connecting for a flight to Steamboat makes a big difference for international travelers. But the option to make one leg of the trip through Denver also helps domestic travelers planning trips of shorter duration.
Funding the minimum revenue guarantees to the airlines that make the ski season flight program work will be tight this winter, resort officials have acknowledged.
However, Rod Hanna — of the Local Marketing District, which oversees expenditure of special tax revenues devoted to the flight program — said his group embraced the addition of the California flights.
Perlman said extra room in the budget was found by changing to a smaller aircraft on the Chicago route to YVRA on six Tuesdays (known for light load factors), most of them in January.
Hanna, who managed the airline program for Ski Corp. as vice president of marketing in another era, said Steamboat had tried to penetrate the Southern California market but came to the conclusion that with its limited budget, the airline program couldn’t make a dent in the expensive advertising market of Los Angeles. Things have changed with the advent of social media on the Internet, he said.
“We can target areas like Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach very cost effectively with a Google campaign that geo targets by zip code,” he said.
Perlman said reaching other California markets and travelers as far north as Oregon and Washington will be a key factor in filling the 66-passenger jet. And ski area officials made certain the connecting times up and down the coast from those cities of origin worked well with the Steamboat flight.
Perlman spent four years as director of sales and marketing at California’s Mammoth Mountain in his ski industry career. He said he think Southern California skiers want to vacation in Colorado resorts like Steamboat.
“I think there’s an affinity there,” he said. “I think they think of their local resorts, and even Mammoth, as a weekend getaway. Our competition for those longer trips of four to five days is Utah.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com