Ski corp., Sheraton sprucing up for winter

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— The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. is readying for several hundred new guests it expects to be crossing Mount Werner Circle on foot daily this winter.
Steamboat Managing Director Chris Diamond said construction has begun on realignment of the entrance to the ski corp. parking garage closest to the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Conference Center on Mount Werner Circle. The realignment will make room for a new pedestrian crossing immediately opposite a key entrance to the new Steamboat Grand Hotel. The hotel opened for business the last week in September.
In order to accomplish the goals for the pedestrian crossing, it was necessary to remove a small parking lot attendant building, Diamond said.
"We needed a well-defined, safe and attractive pedestrian corridor," Diamond said.
The old entrance to the parking garage was in perfect alignment with a southern entrance to the Steamboat Grand. Hotel guests will use an elevator near the entrance on their way to go skiing, Diamond explained. In order to create a pedestrian crossing, the parking ramp entrance had to be moved about 40 feet to the north. Now, instead of entering a driveway, stopping at a control building and turning left into the ramp, drivers will turn off Mount Werner Circle and go directly into the parking structure.
Diamond acknowledged pedestrians headed from the Steamboat Grand into Gondola Square to begin their day on the slopes will still face significant vehicular traffic.
In addition to crossing Mount Werner Circle, they'll have to keep an eye on buses and shuttle vans leaving the transit center just to their south.
Diamond believes that together with the Mountain Business Association, and in consultation with the city of Steamboat Springs, a good solution has been reached.
"This was the best place we could come up with," Diamond said. "It's a short-term solution that is probably going to be a long-term solution."
In order to make it easier for hotel guests to cross Mount Werner Circle, the mountain community and city government will test a plan this winter to narrow the southbound lanes in front of the hotel from two down to one. Two lanes of traffic will remain in place northbound. In effect, that means pedestrians will have to cross three lanes instead of four in order to get from the new hotel to the ski lifts.
A traffic median will also be created to give pedestrians a chance to cross the road in two stages, Diamond said.
The hotel has already taken steps to make it easier for guests to cross the street on their way to skiing; when they check into the hotel, their ski or snowboard equipment will be taken across the street for them and stored in a member's lounge. They can pick up the equipment after crossing the street.
That convenience should be especially noticed by families with small children, who often end up carrying their youngsters' equipment while trying to hold the children's hands.
The hotel is expected to generate about the same amount of foot traffic across the street as the Knoll Parking lot does, Diamond said. Those skiers and riders not only carry their equipment, but must walk a longer distance to cross the street on a diagonal.
"That's a situation we probably should have addressed sooner," Diamond said. "I'd like to make it so that's not a diagonal crossing."
In addition to the new pedestrian crossing entering Gondola Square, a second crossing will be created to the north. It will lead pedestrians directly through a second parking structure to provide a more direct access to Ski Time Square.
While the realignment of the parking ramp entrance is being completed, ski corp. is also making the entrance to Gondola Square more appealing for visitors. Stone masons from Adams Masonry of Steamboat Springs were busy this week installing moss rock on a low wall that had existed as bare concrete for more than a decade.
"I think you'll be impressed with how it feels and looks when it's done," Diamond predicted.
At the same time the ski area is making its improvements, the Sheraton Steamboat is carrying out similar work to its pool area adjacent to the entrance to Gondola Square.
General Manager Chuck Porter said the hotel, mindful that a new stream of pedestrians will be walking by the south side of the property, is continuing the ski corp.'s theme by adding moss rock and stucco.
The Sheraton removed an old pool building a year ago and is in the process of adding a new rest room facility and covered towel area on the east side of the pool. At the same time, a large exterior vent that serves the hotel's boiler room is being camouflaged, Porter said. A planter containing shrubbery is being added near some of the retail shops around the hotel's exterior, and a new seating area for Starbuck's is being created.
The Sheraton still has approvals in place to build a 3,500-square-foot ballroom in the pool area, Porter said.
That addition would be built between the west end of the pool and the ski corp. parking ramp.
"It would allow large groups meeting in the main ballroom to have lunch together and it will increase our exhibit space," Porter said. "We hope to begin (building it) in the near future."
Porter couldn't be more specific about when construction of the small ballroom might take place.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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