All aboard the Ski Plane! |

All aboard the Ski Plane!

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Ski Plane, a hit since its launch last December, will be full of Denverites looking to get in some spring skiing before the promotion ends in early April.

“We’re just seeing a huge last-minute surge in ski reservations – on the Ski Plane, especially. We’re running out of seats,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen-Snowmass, the local reservations agency that books the deal.

Today through Monday, the 40 seats available on both flights that bring Front Range skiers to Aspen for a day on the slopes are completely booked, according to Tomcich. A few seats remain next weekend, but the Ski Plane seats are sold out again on April 5-7, the final days for the travel deal.

Stay Aspen-Snowmass is able to book half of the 80 seats on each of two early morning flights with Ski Plane customers. Last Saturday, the promotion brought in 65 skiers and boarders between the two United Express flights.

In all, more than 1,300 people have booked a Ski Plane trip, with two weeks left before the ski season travel deal is over.

The Aspen Ski Plane package includes round-trip airfare between Denver and Aspen and a lift ticket for $99 plus tax.

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Yesterday, 12 passengers were on the 8:30 a.m. flight out of Denver International Airport for a day of skiing.

Brian Coggon and Martin Gitlin arrived with their ski boots slung over their shoulders and smiles on their faces. Snow was falling in Denver, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining when they stepped onto the tarmac in Aspen. Both were bound for Snowmass.

“This is a great idea. It’s the same price as the Ski Train, so what the heck. We can pretend we’re rich for a day,” said Coggon, who said he takes the Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park once a year.

Amy Hendrickson and John Tompkins were also planning to jump on a bus to Snowmass. Hendrickson booked a couple of seats on the plane as a birthday present for Tompkins.

“It’s awesome. You can’t beat it for the price – lift tickets and airfare,” Hendrickson said.

They took advantage of the package to try Aspen/Snowmass for the first time yesterday.

Resort officials believe the Ski Plane has lured a lot of first-time visitors to Aspen – people they hope will vacation here again.

“A lot of the people say, `Oh, I’ve lived in Denver for years and I’ve never been to Aspen,’ ” said Marcia Goshorn, property liaison with Stay Aspen-Snowmass. She was on hand Thursday to greet passengers and hand out lift tickets.

The Ski Plane has proven most popular on weekends, though travelers can book the deal any day of the week. The trips must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.

On weekends, an Aspen Skiing Co. ambassador and a representative from Stay Aspen-Snowmass are on hand to meet Ski Plane travelers and usher them to a specially assigned bus that brings them into town.

Because a relatively large group took the second flight in yesterday, they received the same treatment.

The Ski Plane deal ends April 7, when Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands close for the season. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to close a week later.

Stay Aspen-Snowmass put the package together in conjunction with United Airlines and the Aspen Skiing Co. It debuted Dec. 15 and quickly received a lot of attention from the Denver media. The promotion evolved after United cut back on flights into DIA that used to provide an early connection for Aspen-bound passengers.

A $299 overnight option with two days of skiing was unveiled in January, but the day trip remained the most popular option by far, according to Tomcich.

“The value of the day trip was just unbeatable,” he said.

Ski Plane travelers may leave Denver on either the 7 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. flight and return to DIA on a 5:45 p.m. or 7 p.m. flight.

Resort officials will begin discussing the potential for bringing the deal back next season once United has set next winter’s flight schedule, according to Tomcich. The airline may resume some of the connecting flights it cut in the wake of Sept. 11, but Tomcich said he’s hopeful there will be an Aspen Ski Plane next season.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from United was that this worked well for them, too,” he said.

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