Friday, January 13, 2012

Flights to Sun Valley at less of a premium

Costs closer to other resort towns

Express Staff Writer

Top graph, New York 2008. Bottom graph, New York 2012.

Disparity between the cost of flights to Sun Valley and to other Western resort towns has dropped since 2008, even as debate over reliability and the cost of commercial air access has stepped up.

A search of the Web-based travel agency Orbitz showed that while roundtrip flights to Sun Valley are still significantly more expensive than those to Boise, they are typically within $100 of flights to Jackson Hole, Wyo., or Aspen, Colo., on holiday weekends.

In addition to being world-famous ski resorts several hours from major metropolitan areas, these three destinations also have airports that are subject to bad winter weather.

In 2008, flights from New York to Sun Valley averaged about $200 more roundtrip than to two other resorts. This figure that has dropped significantly for most upcoming travel periods. During selected periods, it is even less expensive to fly to Sun Valley from some cities.

Airport General Manager Rick Baird said he's not surprised at the change, though he's not sure what to attribute it to.

"We thought they were [comparable]," he said. "I don't have an explanation for the difference between the old days and the new days, but we do check our competitors' prices."

The largest disparity in flight prices was for the end of January, when skiers looking to take advantage of Sun Valley's snowmaking system may spring for a last-minute trip. That spontaneity will cost travelers from New York City at least $611 for a roundtrip ticket, compared to a getaway to Jackson Hole for $432 or Aspen for $369.


For travelers from Los Angeles, Sun Valley actually is less expensive, with a roundtrip ticket costing $332, compared with $587 to Jackson Hole and $306 to Aspen.

Those willing to plan ahead also may find that flights to Sun Valley are slightly cheaper than those to competitors. According to Orbitz, the cheapest ticket for a Presidents Day trip from New York to Sun Valley is $970, compared with about $975 to either of the other resorts. Spring break trips will cost New York travelers roughly $407, compared with $551 to Jackson and $466 to Aspen.

For those who set their hearts on Sun Valley, flights to Boise remain consistently cheaper than flights to Friedman. A last-minute roundtrip January flight from New York is $413, or $241 from Los Angeles, while prices from New York dip to a maximum of $408 for other holiday periods.

However, it's unlikely that passengers currently using Friedman will begin using Boise instead. A recent study from the Fly Sun Valley Alliance shows that those passengers who choose to fly into Friedman do so because of proximity, not price.

Sixty-eight percent of visitors said they didn't even consider other airports when flying to Sun Valley, and 93 percent of all visitors and part-time residents using Friedman said they did so because of its proximity to the resort.

Katherine Wutz:

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