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Mountain News: Aspen airport a giant funnel



ASPEN, Colo. – Passengers arriving on commercial aircraft at the Aspen/Pitkin County airport have the deepest pockets in Colorado.

A new study called the 2008 Colorado Airports Impact Study found that passengers spend an average $2,652, tops in Colorado. Second-highest were passengers into Eagle County Regional Airport, with $2,070 per passenger. The latter airport serves primarily Vail and Beaver Creek but, to a lesser extent, the Aspen-area resorts.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations group, said 80 per cent of winter visitors to Aspen fly. The airport “is so critical to our economy,” he said.

The study also found that, while Eagle County handles more passengers, Aspen’s has more economic clout. It accounts for 11,950 jobs in Colorado, compared to 10,467 jobs initiated by Eagle County Regional.

With the economy struggling and oil prices rising, does the future look equally prosperous? Aviation consultant Mike Boyd told The Aspen Times that there won’t be big changes, but discretionary spending will slow. Tomcich noted the airlines are in what he, and most businesses, would call a crisis, since many are on the brink of bankruptcy.


Q400 new plane of choice

KETCHUM, Idaho – The rising oil prices are steadily nudging changes in how we live. One change is in the fleet of planes used by Horizon Air, which offers commercial service to Sun Valley and other locations. Horizon is adding 15 Bombardier Q400 turboprops, the newer 78-passenger model. Frontier is also using the Q400 for its shuttles from Denver to Aspen, Jackson Hole, and other mountain valleys. The Q400 has 33 per cent improved fuel efficiency compared to other regional planes. Horizon is getting rid of 37 of its older, gas-guzzling planes, notes the Idaho Mountain Express.


Restaurateur says no to Clintons

EDWARDS, Colo. Debbie Marquez was a very popular gal for a while this spring. In addition to helping operate a restaurant in Edwards, located 10 miles down-valley from Vail, she was fielding phone calls from people named Bill and Hillary.

A political activist for nearly 30 years, Marquez is what the Democratic Party calls a “super-delegate,” meaning that she wasn’t beholden to the wishes of causes or state assemblies. Early on, she supported Bill Richardson because he’s Hispanic and from New Mexico, a state neighbouring Colorado, and also because of his foreign policy experience.

When Richardson dropped out, Marquez quickly settled on Barack Obama. The word didn’t get immediately to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Marquez finally had to deliver the news herself to Bill Clinton during a ranging 45-minute conversation. The key, she said, was Hillary’s original vote authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.