Resort economies rely mightily on regional airports, but funding for air service proves elusive |

Resort economies rely mightily on regional airports, but funding for air service proves elusive

Jason Blevins
Denver Post
American Airlines flight 1495 pulls up while taking off from the Eagle County Regional Airport while transporting passengers to the Dallas/Fort Worth Internation Airport in 2014.
Justin Q. McCarty |

Enplanements* at six Colorado regional airports that serve ski areas from 2006 to 2015 and percent change in that decade.

Eagle County Regional Airport: 217,039 / 156,937 / down 28 percent

Aspen-Pitkin County Airport: 201,642 / 233,512 / up 16 percent

Montrose Regional Airport: 82,316 / 102,756 / up 28 percent

Gunnison / Crested Butte Regional Airport: 48,073 / 34,412 / down 28 percent

Yampa Valley Regional Airport: 131,448 / 93,896 / down 29 percent

Durango – La Plata County Airport: 113,516 / 186,800 / up 65 percent

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.

* Enplanements refers to paying passengers boarding

Colorado’s resort communities rely heavily on area airports to support their tourism-based economies, but funding flights that bring tourists to town remains a challenge.

Durango voters this month overwhelmingly rejected a plan to raise property taxes to fund a new $40 million terminal at the overcapacity local airport, revealing the difficulty of funding consistent air service into Colorado’s rural regions.

“The vote lost because it was a property tax increase and people didn’t want that for anything related to transportation,” said Roger Zalneraitis of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, which campaigned for the tax increase on a study showing the Durango-La Plata County Airport supports 2,400 jobs and spurs $161 million in annual economic impact. “If there had been a way for only tourists to pay — say a lodger’s tax — this would have passed very easily.”

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