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