Some winter flights axed as Steamboat air program reserves running dry
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Resort announced Tuesday it will make several cuts to its winter air service for the 2019-20 ski season, eliminating service to Long Beach and reducing flights to and from Minneapolis.
Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden will now offer 14 direct flights in the upcoming season, including an expanded service to and from Fort Lauderdale. Flights to Minneapolis will run daily from Dec. 21 through Jan. 5, 2020, and then decrease to twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Jan. 6 through March 29.
The announcement comes as the Local Marketing District board, which oversees the air program, has struggled to subsidize flights after Steamboat Springs voters struck down the 2A sales tax that would have generated an estimated $1.3 million annually for the program.
The decision not to renew the tax represented a shift from 2011, when voters approved the airline program tax at a rate of 0.25% through 2016.
That funding helped to add three nonstop flights to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport through JetBlue last ski season, including the service to Long Beach.
Until recently, the LMD board relied on reserves from the tax to continue subsidizing flights to Hayden. But according to the board’s most recent annual report, reserves have hit a projected low of about $600,000 for 2019, down from about $4 million in 2018.
At the LMD board’s May meeting, treasurer Jane Blackstone warned about the shrinking funds.
“You’re going so low in your reserves, there’s no cushion,” she said.
Those reserves are set to run out by the end of this year.
The airline program is still funded through a 2% lodging tax and a contribution from the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
At the LMD meeting, Blackstone reported revenue from the lodging tax has increased so far this year, up about 20% from January through March compared to the same time frame in 2018.
Despite that increase, Janet Fischer, the ski resort’s director of airline programs, said it is not enough to offset the loss in funds from the sales tax, which led to the recent cuts in service.
“We have definitely had to make some hard decisions in a couple of areas just relative to working with the different amount,” she said at the meeting.
She added the reasons for the elimination of the Long Beach flight and reduction of service to Minneapolis were based on prior flight performance and contracting costs.
“We, along with the Local Marketing District, felt this solution allowed our program to continue to succeed, serving the most passengers from a variety of markets, in the current situation,” said Ski Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman in the announcement about the flight reductions.
Based on the flights that are currently available, Fischer projects a 5% reduction in arriving seats compared to the 2018-19 winter season.
All winter flights have been loaded into computer reservation sites and are available for booking. Flights are available through Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue and United Airlines.
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