- The Washington Times - Friday, October 31, 2003

VAIL, Colo. — With competition heating up among ski resorts and airlines serving Colorado, Vail Resorts and Denver-based Frontier Airlines have announced a partnership to give some fliers unlimited round-trip flights and skiing for one lump sum.

Dubbed the Ultimate Season Pass, the plan includes round-trip flights into Denver and Reno, Nev., and unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly Valley this winter for $2,999 per person.

A cheaper deal, for $999, offers three round-trip flights into Denver and unlimited skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin.

The larger deal carries a $299 fee, and the three-flight pass has a $99 charge.

The deal is valid from any city served by Frontier Airlines or Frontier JetExpress, with a Friday or Saturday night stay required for each trip.

Vail Resorts is not alone in trying to attract more skiers through airline deals.

Crested Butte Mountain, Colo., trying to recover from a sharp drop in skiers since the mid-1990s, said this week that two airlines will add flights to Gunnison County Airport December through March.

Delta will fly one nonstop daily flight and three Saturday flights from Dallas to Gunnison using a 37-seat regional jet. Continental will fly a Saturday nonstop flight from Newark, N.J., on a 124-seat jet.

Crested Butte officials say the airlines will be offered financial guarantees from a tourism tax.

“Skier visits really correlate with the number of seats coming in; they go hand in hand,” says April Prout, a resort spokeswoman. “This is a great opportunity for us.”

The resort is for sale, and city officials are hoping a buyer will expand the ski area and fund city improvements.

Crested Butte has seen skier traffic plummet 38 percent since the 1997-98 season, when it attracted 549,660 visitors. The drop parallels a decline in air service.

Several years ago, 50,000 airline seats served the area during ski season. That number fell to 32,000 last season.

“We’re trying to climb back and get the same amount of seats again,” says Jim Schmidt, chairman of the Gunnison County Regional Transportation Board and mayor pro tem of Crested Butte. “We feel air service is an essential component” of the city’s ski industry.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. marketing executive Andy Wirth says resort officials are talking with Delta about the possibility of adding a second flight from Atlanta on Saturdays in February and March.

Flights on 183-seat Boeing 757s are more than 50 percent full for the entire ski season.

“The Atlanta flights could already be described as a tremendous success,” Mr. Wirth says. “Clearly, this flight has tapped into tremendous demand in the Southeast.”

This winter will be the first Delta has served Yampa Valley Regional Airport, about 20 miles west of Steamboat, Colo., near the community of Hayden.

In addition to the Atlanta service, daily flights will be run this winter from the West Coast to Hayden through Salt Lake City, starting as low as $123 on Delta.

From the East Coast, a regularly scheduled Saturday flight on Continental goes from Newark to Hayden, and flights also are scheduled for Dec. 26 and 29 and Jan. 1 and 2.

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