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Mountain News: Steamboat airport better, busier



STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Steamboat this winter is having its most extensive flight program ever, and it is also taking delight in the upgrades underway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The airport, notes Steamboat Pilot & Today, is crucial to Steamboat’s high-flying tourism economy.

A second-rate facility just a few years ago, says the newspaper, the terminal has been expanded and other improvements at the airport effected, at a cost of nearly $17 million.

A survey commissioned by Intrawest, the ski area operator, found that 26 per cent of passengers had an annual household income of $250,000 or more. Some 58 per cent of passengers rated the availability of direct flights to the airport, located 25 miles west of Steamboat, as “extremely important” to their decision to visit Steamboat.

Meanwhile, off-season air service to Steamboat is increasing by one-third.

United Airlines has agreed to beef up the spring, summer, and fall air service from Denver by 33 per cent. The new schedule calls for jets, instead of turboprops, and also two or three trips daily, reports the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

“This is really a significant effort toward improving Steamboat’s accessibility,” said Andy Wirth, the executive vice president of sales and market for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

“Make no mistake, this service will benefit everyone in the Yampa Valley, and will help support our diverse economy,” Wirth said.

The newspaper indicated that United Airlines will be given money, but said officials were not disclosing the financial arrangement.

The ski company negotiated the agreement, but it was supported by a taxing district, called the local Marketing District, which levies a 2 per cent lodging tax in Steamboat Springs. The money is used to support commercial air service into the Yampa Valley.

On the newspaper’s website, one blogger saw the news as a mixed bag. “More tourists flying into town and enjoying the natural splendor of the Yampa Valley is exactly what we need,” said the blogger, identified only as “prayforsnow”. “Too bad it also has to bring in the wealthy and second-home owning elite, who do little else than to escalate property values, rents, and provide a few short-term jobs.”

But another blogger, who flies regularly to the outside world for work, seemed to think that an expanded flight schedule would be swell.

Real estate prices in Steamboat have been screaming upward, with values doubling since 2004. Redevelopment is continuing briskly both in the old downtown and at the base of the ski area.