Our View: A flight in the right direction
July 20, 2013
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.