Winter wreaks havoc with travel plans | AspenTimes.com

Winter wreaks havoc with travel plans

Joel Stonington

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Mass cancellations at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport and a regional fuel shortage made travel difficult for commercial airline customers and private jet owners before Christmas.Roughly 60 commercial flights into and out of the Aspen airport were canceled between Dec. 21 and 24, according to airport director Jim Elwood. Airport officials also had to cancel or divert 50 private flights per day during that same period.The Aspen airport canceled 33 inbound flights during the days before Christmas, and a similar number of outbound flights as well. Most of the private flights were diverted to Rifle, said Fred Mosher, the general manager of Atlantic Aviation. The Vail Valley Jet Center, where many flights were diverted, had to ration fuel, and caterers nearly ran out of food. Area airports get fuel and food from Denver, but virtually no supplies arrived for three days.

With another storm in the forecast for today and Friday, managers at the airport here and in Eagle expect further flight cancellations and possible fuel shortages because supplies have not been restocked. In Eagle”It’s just been crazy,” said Vail Valley Jet Center president Paul Gordon. “I’m really concerned about this next weekend. It’s a double whammy. We were pumping record amounts of fuel on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Meanwhile, our supply lines were totally cut off. I’ve never seen anything like that over a holiday. That storm just depleted us.”The airport was still rationing planes Wednesday to a maximum 400 gallons. Some of the bigger planes can take on 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of fuel, so many jets have had to make short puddle-jumps to fuel up. Late last weekend, the Vail Valley Jet Center had to stop selling fuel to private planes so as to be sure that commercial flights would stay on time.

In AspenAspen hasn’t had to ration fuel because so few flights have arrived. The bed base in Aspen has fared well, with many people eventually making it up here, though the travel has been travail. Many area hotels jostled reservations, had some cancellations and generally ended up in the clear.Staff said the Hotel Jerome did better than expectations because of walk-ins. The Gant ended up a bit behind projections after refunds. Stay Aspen/Snowmass reported only nine cancellations out of 175.Even so, 35 percent of the Stay Aspen/Snowmass reservations missed their expected day of arrival in Aspen. Many customers were delayed up to three days.

Skiing woesThe Aspen Skiing Co. reported that the delays didn’t affect skier numbers, and spokesman Jeff Hanle said Christmas Eve was below projections, while Christmas was above. “Our busiest days are still to come,” Hanle said. “Typically the 29th and 30th are our busiest days of the year. We won’t know the full impact until just after New Year’s sometime.”Reservation managers at hotels said most of their guests arrived on travel days between Christmas and New Year’s. The question remains whether the next storm will trouble travelers further. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com