Slight snow edge carries Steamboat through January |

Slight snow edge carries Steamboat through January

Steamboat's return to a snowy pattern in February has been reflected in some strong passenger numbers at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Ski Area reported Tuesday that its season snowfall to date had reached a very modest 175.25 inches. But you couldn't tell it from conditions on the slopes this week, with the Yampa Valley finally back in a snowy pattern.

And the numbers of passengers arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport this month appear to be reasonably strong.

It didn't hurt that the biggest snow event of January was well-timed. The 14 inches of snow that showed up on the snow report the morning of Jan. 26 arrived with five days remaining in an airfare sale organized by Steamboat airline program director Janet Fischer that began in the middle of the month.

"It was good fuel for the campaign," Fischer said. "We had special fares in 26 cities. We did see a big uptick in bookings after the conclusion of the campaign."

Saturdays see the greatest arrivals at the airport in Hayden, and flight reports released by the ski resort reflect that, in aggregate, the flights are carrying strong passenger loads. On Feb. 3, reservations on inbound flights were carrying 1,278 passengers, with the flights 75 percent booked.

The load factor was 81 percent on Feb. 10, when the inbound flights carried 1,377 passengers. And again on Feb. 17, the load factor was 81 percent, this time carrying 1,519 passengers thanks to some additional flights scheduled to meet the demand during Presidents Weekend.

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Airport staff reported this week that January deplanement numbers (passengers arriving at the airport) were 19,739, up from 18,423 recorded in January 2017 and 19,191 in 2016.

The contracts executed by the ski area with the various airlines serving Steamboat do not allow them to reveal passenger numbers on specific flights. However, a glance at Saturday flights this month showed some large jets were booked to capacity and others were very close to being full.

Since the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association abandoned its weekly lodging barometer in advance of this ski season in favor of more forward-looking reports by Inntopia/Destimetrics, it has been more difficult for the broader Steamboat Springs community to see in advance how busy each week of the ski season will be.

However, Inntopia sales and account manager Katie Barnes provided some insight into the business performance of Western ski resorts in a Feb. 15 news release. Barns reported that January visitor numbers were off due to "meager snowfall," but increased lodging rates had more than made up the difference.

"As of Jan. 31, aggregated occupancy for January was down 4.4 percent while average daily rate climbed 7.3 percent compared to January 2016," Barnes reported. "Despite the drop in occupancy, the increased rates permitted a 2.6 percent increase in aggregated revenues in a year-over-year comparison to last January."

Colorado Ski Country USA reported its 23 member resorts had experienced a 13 percent decrease in skier visits during early ski season — mid-October through Dec. 31.

Steamboat Ski Area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said that although Steamboat's early snow accumulation was lower than in typical years, what they did have gave the resort an edge.

"Even though Steamboat's snow wasn't what we were used to, it was more abundant than at other locations," Kasten said. "It still made our snow message an effective tool."

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

A tale of 3 winters

In the winter of 2016-17, Steamboat had recorded 228 inches of snowfall at mid-mountain by the end of January and finished with 288.75 inches after minimal snow fell in March and April.

The winter of 2015-16 was snowier, with 246 inches of snow accumulation by the end of January, to finish up with 370 inches, ranking it the 10th snowiest all time.

However, at the end of January 2015, the ski area had seen just 139 inches of snowfall at mid-mountain and finished up the season with 232 inches.