A United plane full of arriving tourists is guided into Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the holiday season. The airport reported this week that the number of arriving passengers in February dipped by almost 800, about 4 percent, from traffic reported in February 2013.

Photo by Scott Franz

A United plane full of arriving tourists is guided into Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the holiday season. The airport reported this week that the number of arriving passengers in February dipped by almost 800, about 4 percent, from traffic reported in February 2013.

Arriving airline passengers at Yampa Valley airport down 4 percent in February

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— The unusual number of winter storms stretching from the upper Midwest to the Atlantic Seaboard this season may be a factor in a significant dip in the number of travelers arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport west of Steamboat Springs.

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The airport reported this week that the number of arriving passengers in February dipped by almost 800, about 4 percent, from traffic reported in February 2013. The airport saw 20,027 arrivals last month compared to 20,825 last February. The number of travelers boarding planes at the airport, which is in the town of Hayden, to fly elsewhere in February was 19,828. That compares to 20,573 a year ago.

Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane confirmed Wednesday that the passenger numbers provided by the airport “correlate very closely” with numbers the ski area has received from the airlines that serve the Yampa Valley including United, American, Delta and Alaska.

“I would imagine the unpredictable weather across much of the country last month played into some of this,” Lane said.

Skies over the Yampa Valley were clear Wednesday afternoon and the airport was expecting 598 arriving passengers with 644 departing, but people traveling to and from Chicago on American Airlines were confronted with the need to re-book because the flight to YVRA was canceled — not due to weather in Chicago but to an issue described as “pilot connection.”

Travelers and resort and business leaders can expect to hear more details about the performance of this ski season’s jet flights March 21 when the board of the Local Marketing District, which oversees the use of tax revenues to secure the flights, meets in Steamboat. The agenda includes an update on winter air service from Ski Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer. Ski Corp. provides a significant share of the funding for the airline program and historically has negotiated the contracts with airline executives.

Winter has yet to ease up on the eastern U.S. in March; a blizzard warning was out for western New York, including Buffalo, on Wednesday afternoon.  

Cities like Minneapolis, Minn., and Chicago, where daily direct flights to YVRA originate, have been in the thick of the heavy snow belt this winter. Chicago had totaled 75.5 inches of snow by mid-February ranking this winter already as its fourth snowiest. Minneapolis had 24 inches of snow on the ground at its airport Feb. 21, the most since 1982.

And cities that feed the hubs in Chicago and Minneapolis also are struggling to keep up with the snow — Grand Rapids, Mich., had topped 100 inches by Feb. 18 and Detroit stood at 84.1 inches.

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

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