Steamboat tourism industry saddles up for winter
Local business leaders mingle at annual Winter Activity Mixer
December 4, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Win Dermody is ready for another winter behind the steering wheel where he dispenses information about Ski Town USA with a level of sincerity that is hard to match.
"The only thing I have to sell is knowledge," Dermody said. "A smooth, safe ride is a given. It's a requirement of the job."
Dermody is beginning his 13th winter driving visitors around the Yampa Valley. He started driving a shuttle van for Mountain Resorts and has spent the past three winters driving a taxi for Go Alpine.
What sets one ride from airport to condo apart from the others, Dermody said, is the driver's ability to offer well-informed guidance to his fares and answer all of their questions.
Dermody was among several hundred people who packed the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Grand Ballroom on Tuesday to schmooze and nibble during the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's annual Winter Activity Mixer.
A variety of businesses that depend directly on tourism were there to network with taxi drivers, hotel concierges, ski area employees and one another. Many are mindful that there's a distinction to be drawn between the number of people arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport for a ski vacation and the amount of money they spend while they are here.
Jon Hawes, of Dutch Creek Guest Ranch near Steamboat Lake, said his lodging bookings are on par with last year but that reservations for activities such as sleigh ride dinners aren't keeping pace. And because his guest cabins provide full kitchens, he expects that some of his guests will economize and won't eat their meals in the dining room as frequently as they have in the past.
Dutch Creek depends on Alpine skiers at the Steamboat Ski Area to drive the activity business, and a sleigh ride dinner for four — $70 for adults, $45 for children ages 6 to 12, $10 for children ages 5 and younger — is a pricey option for people on a budget.
"We are working with people who call us," Hawes said.
If a large family group hesitates at the price quote, particularly if they call close to the time they want to visit, he's willing to work with them on a discount to make it possible.
Perk Heid, of Del's Triangle 3 Ranch near Clark, which offers winter horseback riding, said he and his father, Ray, decided not to increase prices this winter — the price remains $75 for a 90-minute ride into the aspen trees. They are optimistic that they won't have to lay off any of their horses this season.
"We've had a good amount of business already," Ray Heid said. "We've had several parties this week, and I had a group of 19 last month."
Horseback rides at Del's Triangle 3 include the use of leather chaps (pronounce the word "shaps" and your wrangler will respect you), well-worn cowboy hat and full-length duster.
"The people from England love them," Ray Heid said. "People come to Steamboat to ski and tell us this was the highlight of their trip."
Dermody is so eager for winter visitors to arrive en masse this season that he's begun dispensing local lore on a volunteer basis.
"I was standing in front of the Steamboat Art Museum this week, and I spotted some folks," he said. "I said, 'Hi, are you visiting? Do you need any help?' At first they said, 'No,' then one of them pointed to Howelsen Hill and asked, 'What is that over there?'"
Dermody happily explained the history of Steamboat's municipal ski jumping complex.
"I just like it," Dermody said. "I take a lot of pride in what I do. I'm 74 years old, and I like to see everyone happy."
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