Gunnison-Crested Butte airport remains busy for the ski season

And a potential restaurant in the terminal?

By Mark Reaman

The Gunnison-Crested Butte airport (GUC) is seeing an increase in passengers this winter even while most other mountain resort communities appear to be seeing a decline, according to the Gunnison Valley Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) air consultant Bill Tomcich. Tomcich reported to the RTA board in February that GUC was having a healthy winter season and while there were a few issues in mid-January given weather, air service remains consistent and reliable.

“I was on a call with Destimetrics (company that tracks mountain resort occupancies) and they reported that 16 out of 17 mountain resort communities were seeing declines,” he told the board. “I’m not sure of the reason but it is good news for us.” 

Crested Butte isn’t part of Destimetrics, but he said CB is an outlier as well that is showing an increase in winter business.

Board member Jason MacMillan said when a recent Colorado Association of Ski Towns (CAST) meeting was held in the valley, he heard several times from other elected officials and staff people from other resort communities that Crested Butte was more affordable than their home resorts.

“That makes sense for customers to be looking at a vacation in either Steamboat, or Park City or Crested Butte and apply the affordability element of CB to their decisions,” said board member Laura Puckett Daniels. “I recall last summer that several lodging properties in the valley lowered their rates and that attracted visitors, so maybe that is still in play.”

Tomcich said more than 15,000 passengers were recorded going through GUC in January of 2024, which was a 22% increase over 2023. “Bookings for the rest of the winter are starting to taper off as expected this time of year but there were still 1,900 bookings last week,” he said. “February is pacing up 5% over last year, March is 12% ahead of last year and April is up 42% since flights will go to April 8 this season.” The ski area is open this year until April 7, a week later than in 2023.

Tomcich said preliminary reports of the JSX service have him a tad concerned. “They expanded the number of flights from Dallas to GUC and have carried about the same number of passengers as they did last year,” he said. “I’m a bit concerned about that. American carried more passengers out of Dallas so maybe it is a pricing issue.”

As for the summer, he said United was planning to add an additional Saturday flight from Denver to Gunnison. American is still interested in providing summer service to GUC but, given pilot shortages, Tomcich said he was told that would not happen in 2024. “But it is still on their radar,” he said.

The biggest news in the local air realm might be that GUC airport manager Rick Lamport said the terminal restaurant could open before spring break. “Jermaine’s is shooting to open next week,” he told the board. “There have been some delays with the renovation and electric work,” explained Lamport, but he is expecting that passengers can get something to eat and drink at the terminal before the prime March busy period.

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