Our View: A flight in the right direction

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Steamboat Today editorial board — June to December 2013

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • David Baldinger Jr., community representative
  • Lisa Brown, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The news this week that Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the board of the Local Marketing District have contracted for ski season flights from Seattle to Yampa Valley Regional Airport is welcome on multiple levels.

Opening Steamboat to new markets like Seattle, with its metro population of more than 3.5 million people, is a tangible benefit of the 0.25 percent sales tax approved by voters in November 2011.

The residents of metro Seattle, where companies like Eddie Bauer and REI are headquartered, are oriented to outdoor activities in much the same way that people living on Colorado’s Front Range are. They’re into snow sports, hiking and cycling.

Recruitment of Steamboat skiers from new markets is something we all hoped to hear about after the sales tax passed. Tapping into the Pacific Northwest market can expose Steamboat to a base of committed skiers and snowboarders looking for a convenient way to experience a new mountain town. And at least for the time being, Steamboat’s direct competitors don’t have the advantage of direct flights from the Pacific Northwest, which includes the cities of Spokane, Wash., as well as Eugene and Portland, Ore.

As long as fares are competitive and load factors are high, we think this is a big step in the right direction.

But there is more to the Seattle strategy than opening up a new hub airport. Clearly, Steamboat Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman, who held similar positions at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., has a West Coast strategy.

The addition of Seattle to cities where ski season flights to Steamboat originate comes one year after Steamboat picked up weekend flights from Los Angeles. Steamboat is adding a Thursday flight from L.A. this winter, and Perlman acknowledged the Wednesday/Saturday schedule for Seattle in its first season was influenced by the experience with the inaugural L.A. flight, which enjoyed strong load factors, though travelers who stayed here less than a week presumably flew home through Denver.

To a significant degree, the addition of L.A. was meant to make it more convenient for loyal skiers and riders from Australia and New Zealand to reach Steamboat for the extended vacations they like to indulge in. And yes, Perlman said, the Seattle flight on Alaskan Airlines, which has code sharing agreements with airlines like American and Korean Air, is part of opening Steamboat up to the Pacific Rim.

Finally, the introduction of Alaska Airlines to Steamboat’s airline partners adds a measure of security in an era when competition in the airline industry has been reduced by a series of mergers. Among airlines that have served Yampa Valley Regional Airport, we’ve seen Northwest absorbed into Delta, Continental absorbed into United and American and U.S. Airways got engaged in 2011 after a stormy courtship.

Recent developments reflect the Local Marketing District board and Ski Corp. executives taking aggressive steps to position the resort economy for the future.

Comments

walt jones 9 months, 1 week ago

Let's look at the numbers. 2 flights a week on a 70 passenger jet if all seats are sold to skiers that only 140 people a week from the northwest. So based on realistic numbers 75% of the seats, if full, would be skiers so that's 105 people. And from the looks of it prices are not that high so we will be footing to bill once again. Maybe if this was a daily flight like the Dallas, Houston ones on 737s it would be something to wow over but this setup on a low cost carrier is a joke from Ski Corp.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months, 1 week ago

I disagree with Walt, both sides are going into a new venture and the first year they are going to take a baby step to see if the demand is there. If there is proven demand then I'm sure both parties will be looking for larger equipment to fly to HDN.

I know 4 people that are coming from Seattle next winter on this flight that are net new visitors to Steamboat. They have been sharing this news with their friends who also love Colorado skiing.

I applaud the Ski Corp for looking to open up new / direct flights to HDN.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 1 week ago

Mark,

I'd applaud Ski Corps for looking to open up new markets, but the program is too heavily funded by public taxpayers to be thrilled at what is being done with taxpayer money.

And these flights are a very modest convenience because there are infrequent enough that many people are going to have to go through Denver for the other leg of their journey. And if going through Denver is tolerable then it could presumably work for them for both flights.

I think that last winter showed that having fewer direct flights makes has no serious impacts upon local winter tourism. The number of seats we had was pretty close to the worse case scenario argued by the sales tax proponents during the campaign and yet sales tax and accommodations tax were up last winter.

The whole airline tax is part of a doomed battle against major trends in the airline industry that keeps escalating the costs of small town airline subsidies. The community gets very little benefit for the money being spent on this program.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months, 1 week ago

Yes Scott the tax it is paid by public taxpayers a portion of which are the visitors. If it wasn't for the tourism this town would quickly shrink, and it will take multiple different efforts to market the town and keep the visitors visiting.

I have only been here a year and didn't live through the previous battles on this tax, but I believe in the long run having more flights to more locations is a bigger benefit than being hopeful people will make the drive to Steamboat in the winter. just my 2 cents.

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Scott Wedel 9 months, 1 week ago

Mark,

The campaign for the airline tax promised 140,000 occupied seats and dire consequences if the tax didn't pass. The trouble with that narrative is that last winter we had about as many airline seats as the dire consequences scenario. But the economic consequence of fewer airline seats was an increase in tourism.

More flights would be great if they could be supported by paying passengers.

But when the tax is over a million dollars a year then we get little in return. Our airline guarantees are managed to largely be spent year after year.

In contrast, Vail Resorts run the winter airline program into Eagle airport and they have long made it corporate policy that they will make the revenues so that the program costs them nothing.

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walt jones 9 months ago

Mark, sure new markets are beneficial but I can think of about 10 markets that have bigger populations to draw from and no ski areas near them which would make it more enticing to come here for them.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months ago

Walt, please provide a list of 10 larger markets than metro Seattle that are not already serviced by direct flights or within a hour or so drive of an airport with direct flights to HDN.

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walt jones 9 months ago

Sure i would bet a bigger marketbwould come out of the following cities: New York (no NJ flight is no the same Boston Philadelphia San Diego San Antonio Phoenix Jacksonville Indianapolis San Francisco Columbus Charlotte (use to have non-stop service)

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Mark Ruckman 9 months ago

The direct from NJ is the same as NYC - it is just a bridge. I know many people that cross between EWR, JFK & LGA depending on where they need to go.

Philly - is larger that Seattle Phoenix - is larger that Seattle Boston - is larger that Seattle (the skier load to HDN is not that big, I fly this route often via DEN) San Fran - is larger that Seattle

The remaining markets are smaller than Seattle metro.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months ago

Sorry when I post it looses all formatting

1 New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Has flights direct to HDN 2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Has flights direct to HDN 3 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Has flights direct to HDN 4 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Has flights direct to HDN 5 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 6 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Has flights direct to HDN 7 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
8 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
9 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Has flights direct to HDN 10 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Has flights direct to HDN 11 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
12 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 13 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Has flights direct to HDN via LAX 14 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 15 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA New 16 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Has flights direct to HDN 17 San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
18 St. Louis, MO-IL
19 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 20 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD
21 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO/1 Has flights direct to HDN 22 Pittsburgh, PA
23 San Juan-Carolina-Caguas, PR
24 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 25 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC
26 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 27 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

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Scott Wedel 9 months ago

But "have flights" doesn't matter much when they are twice weekly on 70 passenger jets. Even if fully occupied by tourists and no seats are used by locals then that still represents less than 1% of lodging occupied that week.

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Mark Ruckman 9 months ago

Scott you have to start somewhere, I think you would be screaming louder if the tax was being used for a 737 and they hadn't proven if there was demand by using smaller equipment.

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Bob Smith 9 months ago

"...having fewer direct flights makes has no serious impacts upon local winter tourism..." - -BINGO *

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