HAYDEN — Local businesses have been preparing for it, and the busy winter visitors season ramped up Wednesday with the arrival of flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport that connect Steamboat Springs with big cities throughout the United States.
“Today, everybody is excited,” said Rhonda DeCicco, who manages passenger services at YVRA. “Everybody’s excited to get back to work.”
The direct flights from major cities throughout the country help fuel the local tourism economy.
The first bird to fly into YVRA was a 50-passenger Embraer ERJ-145 operated by ViaAir, a Florida-based airline with 10 planes in its fleet. ViaAir Vice-President of Operations Matthew Macri rode on the inaugural flight, which services YVRA directly from Austin, Texas.
After landing in Hayden, the plane then heads to Kansas City, Missouri, returns to YVRA and then goes back to Austin.
By ushering in skiers to Steamboat Ski Area, the airline is trying to grow its niche market.
“Flying where you want to go, not where you need to go,” Macri said.
Macri said it made sense to start flying into the Yampa Valley because of the demand.
“It’s really the will of the people of Austin,” Macri said. “It’s where they want to go.”
To celebrate the start of winter air service, ski area ambassador Tina Kyprios and DeCicco passed out Steamboat hats to the passengers as they stepped off the plane.
Billy Kidd, an Olympic ski racer who has a bronze statue at the base of the ski area, traveled to Austin to take the flight.
On board, Kidd met the Sullivan family and their children, who have attended Kidd’s camps and said they loved them.
“The reason they love it is because they don’t have to wait for me,” Kidd said.
Mike Walker, who is now considering a family vacation to Steamboat, piloted the plane and got to fly into the Yampa Valley for the first time.
“Enjoying the beautiful scenery around here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this.”