A Delta Airlines Airbus 320 from Atlanta prepares to touch down Thursday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. The airport was expecting 982 arriving passengers Thursday with the planes 96 percent full in aggregate.

Photo by Tom Ross

A Delta Airlines Airbus 320 from Atlanta prepares to touch down Thursday at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. The airport was expecting 982 arriving passengers Thursday with the planes 96 percent full in aggregate.

Thousands of skiers, riders arriving in Steamboat this week come without skis and snowboards

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— Carolina Sanchez de Varona, 16, of Miami, was planning to take part in skiing and snowboarding in Steamboat Springs this holiday week. But the only equipment she carried in her luggage when her plane landed from Dallas on Thursday was a pair of Alpine ski boots.

“You can rent any old pair of skis,” Sanchez de Varona said. “Snowboard boots are comfortable, but it’s hard to find a pair of ski boots that fit really well.”

The Jason Oyler family, of Atlanta, also brought along ski boots but not skis.

The prevailing wisdom in the ski and snowboard travel industry is that ski vacationers either don’t own equipment or increasingly are leaving their own equipment behind. Instead, they favor avoiding airline baggage fees by renting freshly tuned skis and snowboards at destination resorts. You can read about Delta's baggage restrictions online.

Sanchez de Varona and her family stayed up virtually all Christmas night to catch their 6:40 a.m. American Airlines flight from Miami to Dallas and connecting on to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. They were among 982 passengers expected to arrive at the airport 23 miles west of Steamboat on flights that were 96 percent full in aggregate.

The lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association on Thursday anticipates that 14,700 guests will spend the night Saturday in Steamboat compared to confirmed numbers of 14,000 on the corresponding Saturday in 2012. Already, the Chamber is forecasting 15,200 people will spend the night in local hotels and condominiums Jan. 4.

A couple of airport shuttle drivers confirmed Thursday that fewer skiers than ever are packing skis and poles.

“The last few years, they don’t seem to be bringing their skis,” said Hilmar Froening, who has been driving for Go Alpine for more than 13 seasons.

Tim Kaiser, of Storm Mountain Express, said he had just delivered 18 people to Steamboat with only a single pair of skis on board. And on Christmas Day, his van carried 20 people with no more than one snowboard and two sets of skis in the cargo rack.

Ted Carey, of the UPS Store in Steamboat Springs, said increasing numbers of people ship their equipment ahead. For his store on Central Park Drive, picking up and delivering luggage and ski gear from guest lodging properties is a significant part of his business this time of year.

“It’s pretty much what we do all day long, all winter,” Carey said.

He said his service can save customers money, depending upon the circumstances, but also provides convenience.

“If United Airlines is charging you $25 for a bag, then no, we probably won't save you money, but if you have an oversized bag or extra checked luggage they may charge $100 or $200 for, then yes, shipping with us can save you,” Carey said.

Depending upon its weight, shipping a single ski bag from Chicago to Steamboat might cost $50 to $60 and a double ski bag, $60 to $70, through his store, Carey said.

His business delivers luggage to hotel front desks, rooms and condos and will make appointments to pick up people's ski gear for shipping.

The PostNet store in Steamboat also ships skis and luggage for vacationers and had a dozen or so sets of ski gear headed out the door Thursday.

A random spot check of airline passengers arriving here the day after Christmas detected a significant number of Steamboat loyalists who own their ski equipment and store it in their own condominiums.

Lauren Greiner, of Atlanta, knew that her K2 Missdemeanors were waiting for her at a Bronze Tree condominium owned by her husband’s family.

“I can’t wait,” she said.

Chris Sanchez, of Dallas, said he didn’t anticipate the cost of bringing his Airwalk snowboard on the plane.

“I didn’t think about it, and when I came to the airport and found out it would be $25, I ate it,” Sanchez said.

Dick Cowan, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said he wouldn’t think of leaving his K2 Capita snowboard behind.

“I’ve always owned my own stuff,” Cowan said.

Other travelers have special privileges when it comes to checked bags.

Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Revis, who is stationed in Roanoke, Va., said he gets two pieces of checked luggage at no charge as a member of the armed services. He checked a snowboard and a bag full of outdoor clothing, including some belonging to his traveling companions.

John Vincent, of Memphis, Tenn., said he has platinum elite status with Delta Airlines and isn’t required to pay for checked bags either. His family members fit all of their outdoor clothing into one large bag. Just the same, son Austin, 20, was proud to say all of his personal gear was contained in a carry-on backpack.

Melissa Wilson, of Columbia, S.C., said her party of four young adults preferred to rent their skis in advance from Ski Butlers because they offered to deliver them to their accommodations. Other ski shops in Steamboat provide a similar service.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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