Steamboat’s dry weather keeps Yampa Valley Regional Airport giant snowblower in the barn

Tom Ross

ViaAir is flying to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport from Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, during the 2017-18 ski season.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The snow removal crew that takes care of the 10,000-foot runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport took delivery of a giant snowblower and a massive rotary broom in late 2017, but the crew hasn’t had much reason to put those new toys to work this winter.

The airport, in Hayden, is 23 miles west of Steamboat Springs and occupies a distinctly different climate zone than Steamboat. When there is snow falling on Steamboat Ski Area, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s snowing at the airport.

Except for Christmas morning when the snow removal crews were hard at work at 4 a.m., there’s been little snow to clear from the runway.

“The only day we had to close the runway was the 23rd of December,” Airport Director Kevin Booth said. “The visibility was down to zero.”

But that doesn’t mean there haven’t be a number of weather-related flight delays at the airport. It just means the trouble was elsewhere.

“They had some freezing rain in Dallas that shut the airport down,” Booth said.

He characterized the number of delays at the local airport as typical of this time of year.

On Thursday, with clear skies and 1,117 arriving passengers, the flights to Steamboat were 89 percent full, and the American flight from Chicago arrived one hour and 11 minutes late after waiting for the aircraft to arrive at O’Hare.

At the same time, the nation’s commercial aviation system was watching Winter Storm Grayson for its impact on major eastern airports. Through the morning, the Federal Aviation Administration  had listed only San Francisco as experiencing delays, but shortly after noon Mountain Time, as the intensity of winds and snow associated with the storm heightened, the FAA reported that all flights destined for Washington/Dulles were being held at their cities of origin.

And by 2:15 p.m. Thursday, New York La Guardia and Kennedy, which do not have flights to Steamboat, were closed. Yet, Newark, which does serve the Yampa Valley, remained open.

“Our flights from Newark and Dulles are weekend flights, hopefully the storm will have passed,” Booth said.

Flights from Chicago to the Yampa Valley have experienced a number of significant delays since late December. On Dec. 28, the American flight from the Windy City arrived two hours late, and the United flight from Chicago followed suit on Dec. 29. 

On Dec. 30, the United flight to Newark from Hayden departed an hour late. That same day, the American flight from Dallas arrived two hours late, and the Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle was two hours and 9 minutes late.

ViaAirlines, which is using one aircraft and one flight crew to operate flights to and from Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, is also experiencing delays. Once any leg of the schedule loses time, it’s difficult to make it up.

On Dec. 30, the flight from Austin arrived in Hayden two hours late.

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

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