Steamboat Springs In 2001, Steamboat Springs' economy had to withstand a tumultous stock market, a reeling real estate market and the uncertainty surrounding its top employer the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.
The year began with Federal Express opening a new, modernized package-loading facility in the Copper Ridge business park. The new building had a strategic location less than a mile from the Steamboat Springs Airport. But following the tragic crash in May of a FedEx plane, the company shifted its airport of choice to Yampa Valley Regional Airport, almost 25 miles west on U.S. 40. The new loading facility allows FedEx drivers to load their trucks indoors for the first time here. Station Manager Katrina Zupan said FedEx typically handles 500 packages a day.
Cheyenne, Wyo., based Great Lakes Aviation, which flies into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, announced a new code sharing agreement with Frontier Airlines in February 2001. Both Great Lakes and Air Wisconsin were flying into YVRA as "United Express" carriers when 2001 began. However, the parent airline shifted Air Wisconsin to other routes for the spring, summer and fall.
Great Lakes made a miscalculation when it scheduled Brasilia turboprops to fly into YVRA in summer; weight restrictions made it an impractical aircraft for the high elevation runway, and service was unpredictable throughout the summer. Often, flights did not operate, and frequently, passengers were left in the airport. Summer air travel was further disrupted when the runway closed for about 10 days in August for repairs.
Great Lakes viability came into question when it fell behind on its rent payments to the county, but the commuter improved its service and reached new code-sharing deals with Frontier before its planned departure from YVRA for ski season.
An Air Wisconsin spokesman said his company was back at YVRA for the long haul, when it returned for the ski season and beyond in December.
Also in February, Colorado Ski Country U.S.A. CEO David Perry told a Steamboat audience his organization is busy "re-branding" Colorado to appeal to a more youthful audience.
Colorado has been too focused on baby boomers, and needs to do a better job of marketing to snowboarders, Perry said.
Nationwide, about 26 percent of visitors to ski mountains are snowboarders. Without them, the 70 million annual "skier visits" nationwide would be a much smaller number, Perry said. Colorado is clearly the dominant regional ski destination in the country with about 12 million skier days each year, but snowboarders comprise just 17 percent of the total, according to Perry.
The Steamboat Ski Area heeded Perry's call, and began work in summer 2001 on a new permanent super pipe for snowboarders and free skiers to be named "Mavericks," after a popular surfing spot in California.
Many Steamboat natives saw the place of their birth demolished on March 26 when the old Routt Memorial Hospital was torn down. The hospital site is being redeveloped for single-family homes. The building, which was dedicated in August 1950, had stood vacant for more than a year after the new Yampa Valley Medical Center opened in late 1999.
Officials of Gart Sports, one of the nation's largest sporting good chains confirmed in May they had been looking closely at building a new store in Steamboat Springs, but said nothing was certain.
Gart Sports Vice President of Real Estate Development Lucey Kelton said her company researched the practicality of a site in the Central Park Plaza shopping center near Wal-Mart. The deal was still pending, but alive, at the end of the year. Gart Sports owns 178 stores in 25 states.
New Hampton Inn
Vectra Bank sold the long-vacant Ski Town Inn & Suites on U.S. 40, in June to a group of Texas investors who undertook a major remodeling and made plans to reopen the 68-unit hotel as a Hampton Inn.
Manager Roland Balloun said the primary buyers are principals in a limited liability company based in Texas. They include his brother, Mike Balloun, and Dennis Tuttle.
Although the hotel is 4 years old, it is virtually brand new, having opened as the Ski Town Inn & Suites on Dec. 24, 1997. It closed on the last day of the ski season the following April. The original hotel developers, members of Richcam Ventures, defaulted on their construction loans and the hotel was placed into receivership.
University professor and tourism expert Hal Rothman told an audience of business leaders at Steamboat's annual economic summit on June 7 that tourism is moving into an era when experiences, not possessions, are the currency of the day. Rothman said Steamboat's challenge, if it is to succeed as a tourism destination in the future, is to preserve its sense of community while adapting to aging baby boomers and the next generation of tourists.
As the baby boom generation fully enters retirement age, Rothman said, Steamboat must continue to find things for aging boomers to do beyond skiing, but not lose sight of the young people who came of age during the reign of MTV. Those two groups are from distinctly different cultures, he added. Still, Steamboat doesn't have to forsake its tradition in order to attract members of the current youth culture; they too will plug into the tradition of a real town that skis, he said.
Resort Group building
Construction on the new corporate headquarters for property management company, Resort Group, was nearing completion at the end of the year. Construction began in June.
The new building at the corner of Mount Werner Road and Resort Drive will house company offices and provide remote check-in facilities for guests. The lobby of the building was designed to create a western lodge feel, with a large fireplace and log accents. The architect is Jan Kaminski of Mountain Architecture Design Group. The general contractor is TCD.
Construction began in July on a pair of clubhouses that are part of the overall Catamount Ranch & Club development south of Steamboat Springs. Officials of the Cordillera Group, managing partners of Catamount, said they anticipate completion by Memorial Day weekend 2002.
The public, as well as club members, will be welcome to dine at restaurants that will be part of the Lake Clubhouse and the Golf Clubhouse.
The general contractor for both projects is TCD of Steamboat Springs. Each building includes a little more than 7,000 square feet.
On July 1, the developers of the Eagle Ridge Lodge announced plans to auction off the 10 smaller condominium units in their project on Aug. 12.
Auction house Sheldon Good opened the bidding on the condos at $50,000 for studios and $100,000 for two-bedroom units. The larger units were listed on the open market for $345,000.
Mike Buckley, sales manager for Summit Habitats, said the company's principal, Sandy Treat, decided to go the auction route on the final 10 units in the lodge so that the sales staff could give its full attention to the sale of the townhome aspect of the project.
The Eagle Ridge auction wasn't the last real estate auction of the year.
A five-bedroom home overlooking Strawberry Park that was originally listed for $2.7 million in December 2000, sold at auction on Sept. 23 for $1.22 million.
Edward Burr of Jacksonville Beach, Fla. was the successful bidder. He was among seven people who put up $50,000 in certified funds to take part in the auction. The seller was Starla Price.
An international environmental engineering and construction firm with a major office in Steamboat announced its merger with another global company in August.
Officials of Montgomery Watson said their merger with Harza Engineering Company will bring new opportunities for the Steamboat office. The local office currently employs 35 people.
The newly merged organization, renamed MWH Global, Inc., is worth more than $700 million and employs more than 5,500 people in 30 countries around the world. The Steamboat office is the headquarters for mining and South American operations.
Projects managed by the Steamboat office of MWH range from mining remediation at high-elevation mines in central Colorado, Peru and Chile; to management of urban water systems in Brazil.
Key executives of Montgomery Watson have remained based in Steamboat since the 1997 acquisition of a previously existing local firm, TerraMatrix.
Lackluster job fair
A community job fair in November that local employers usually depend on heavily to recruit employees for the ski season was canceled because of a lack of interest on the part of those same employers. The cancellation reflected uncertainty about the beginning of the ski season. Businesses from property management companies to restaurants were reevaluating how quickly they would bring seasonal employees onto the payroll.
The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. went ahead with its Nov. 3 job fair.
First National building
The new First National Bank Building under construction on U.S. 40 was dried in for the winter by November, and the bank's 10 employees hosted a preview open house.
The bank building encompasses about 14,000 square feet on three floors. The public bank area will occupy 5,600 square feet on the main level.
Flights scaled back
As the ski season approached, Ski Corp. announced it was scaling back its plans to underwrite daily ski season jet flights from Newark (New York) on Continental Airlines. The daily flights were preserved only for peak segments of the ski season, with flights reverting to weekly during the balance of the winter. The addition of the daily service between the New York metro area and Yampa Valley Regional Airport near Hayden was hailed as a major step forward when it was announced in summer, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks eroded the confidence of destination ski vacationers in the New York area and Ski Corp. executives reluctantly pulled back on their plans.
Despite all of the uncertainty about the current ski season, holiday crowds arrived for New Year's weekend the lodging barometer published by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association predicted more than 13,000 tourists in town this weekend.