VAIL, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Air Canada plans to offer direct flights from Toronto to the airport serving the Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts in Colorado this winter.

The Saturday flights between Toronto and Eagle County Regional Airport will be offered Dec. 14 through April 5 using a 120-seat Airbus A319 aircraft. It’s the first every international service for the airport.

International markets represent a growing customer base for Vail Resorts Inc., which operates the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

“Having direct access from Toronto is a really big deal. We’ve had a lot of international skier visits for a long time, but having the direct access really sets us apart from other ski areas,” Davy Ratchford with Vail Ski Resort told CBS4. “What people really wanted was the opportunity, the access, and to get here quicker.”

Eagle County Regional Airport aviation director Greg Phillips said Wednesday that the airport, Air Canada and Vail Resorts had talked for about a year about adding a flight to the Vail area from Canada, which has a sizable number of skiers and snowboarders.

The first international flight into Eagle is unique because the passengers won’t go through customs there.

“It’s an agreement nationally between the two countries, and so they clear through customs but they do it in Canada before they board the plane rather than after they get here,” Phillips said.

The Air Canada agreement is also significant because the small airport in the central mountains joins Denver as the only other mountain destination the airliner flies to.

“They don’t even have direct service from Toronto to Salt Lake City, so this is a big deal,” Phillips said.

The Eagle County airport will have direct flights to and from 10 other major cities during ski season.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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