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Mountain News:

Eagle mulling summer flights to Chicago



EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Several resort valleys of the West have been subsidizing direct flights during summer months in an attempt to broaden their economies to make them less reliant on winter. Crested Butte, Telluride, Steamboat Springs, and Sun Valley/Ketchum have all added flights.

In Eagle County, which is anchored by Vail, county commissioners partnered with merchants and real estate developers two years ago to post $475,000 to ensure profits on direct flights from Dallas. The flights had so many passengers that the airline needed only $20,000.

Last summer, the program was expanded to include a flight from Denver, and there were enough passengers that the consortium of locals had to pay nothing.

This year, reports the Vail Daily, the business community wants to add direct flights from Chicago, the third largest tourism market for Eagle County during summer. For their part, merchants, hoteliers, and developers are willing to post $350,000, leaving county government with a $200,000 liability. However, the county commissioners have been hesitant, as they fear the Chicago flights would hurt the Denver flights.

A good Christmas

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Helped by badly needed snow storms, the financial news from the biggest business week of the year ranged between good and great in many ski towns of the West.

The Breckenridge Resort Chamber reported 95 to 100 per cent occupancies in the town during the New Year’s weekend. "We’re having the best month ever in our company’s history, a representative from one 13-year-old property management firm told the Summit Daily News.

In California’s Mammoth Lake, the town’s visitors’ bureau reported that 99.9 per cent of lodging rooms were projected to be booked during Christmas week.

In Aspen, buses were full, streets crowded, and the line for the gondola was the longest in recent memory after 11 inches of fresh snow. "At 10 a.m.., the line was the longest I’ve seen since the mid-80s," local skier Phil Pitzer told The Aspen Times.

Telluride reported its busiest day on record on the Thursday before the New Year, with 7,763 skiers. And Durango Mountain Resort had its busiest day in 10 years.

Newspapers in several ski towns reported crushes of holiday shoppers. "There are just lots of people here that seem to be spending quite a bit of money," merchant Leon Rinck told The Steamboat Pilot.

Stores in Vail and its suburbs were likewise crushed with customers this year. While tourists were undoubtedly part of the story, the Vail Daily connects the boom to the real estate boom of the last 17 months. Buyers of vacation homes have been retrofitting their new properties, serving as Santa Claus for some months now.