Saturday, December 28, 2002
Q. How is the $2 million in capital improvements going? What has been accomplished and is there anything that has been pushed off for another year?
A. All of the major projects for our current fiscal year have been completed. The Thunderhead (upper gondola building) improvements are now done and look great: new concierge desk, new carpeting, wainscoating and lighting on the first floor. Then, on the third floor, the oldhite globe lights and orange metal chairs are finally gone and have been replaced by attractive chandeliers and very nice-looking banquet chairs. A new coat of paint rounds out the improvements in this high-use facility.
Four Pointsut has new wallpaper and interior finishes. Ragnars also has new carpeting.In the base area, the deck between Bear River Grill and Steamboat Ski & Sport has been expanded. Working with our partners at the Sheraton and Torian Plum, we were able to construct a walkway at the slope's edge, so we now have a workable pedestrian connection between Gondola Square and Ski Time Square.
The new snowmaking inashor Bowl allowed us to be the first in Colorado to open a superpipe. All of our changes in that area, including the new music system, are being received very positively.We've received very positive responses from everyone on this year's capital improvements, particularly to the improvements to the third floor Thunderhead.
Q. We have gotten a lot of early season snow -- more than 130 inches since the end of October. Has that had an impact on visitors at the ski area? In what way?
A. Statewide, the snow from October through November was great, but once again, beginning in mid-December, Steamboat has led the way with the best snow conditions in the entire western United States. Moreover, we have the deepest base and best snow surfaces in Colorado. Snow conditions are certainly an important factor in our customers' vacation destination decision, and we're glad to be in a position to offer such great skiing and riding.
Clearly, our current guests are impacted in a very positive way and they express their satisfaction through our on-mountain guest service ratings, which we measure daily. It is through these surveys, that we are seeing some of the highest historical ratings of overall satisfaction and value for the month of December. The great snow also shows in the smiles of the many people who live here and provide services to our guests.
Q. Last year you scored a big coups in the post-Sept. 11 environment by attracting more Front Range skiers than ever before. Was that an anomaly or is it something you think the ski area can continue to build upon?
A. Our gains in the Front Range last year were notable but can't legitimately be seen as an anomaly. In fact, those gains were based on a focused, researched-based and aggressive marketing strategy. It was extensive research of Front Range skiers that has helped us map our way to success -- allowing us to not speculate or make decisions based on anecdotal information.
Our current strategy iso make sure we hold onto last year's gains from the Front Range in a very competitive market. We continue to see the major I-70 corridor/Front Range resorts using almost exclusively commodity-based pricing strategies -- commodity in the sense that price is the only differentiating characteristic. We actually see that as a benefit to Steamboat. We can and do compete on price, but there's much more to Steamboat and our message to Front Range skiers.
Steamboat's snow, mountain, real town and genuine friendliness continue to be what differentiates us from the I-70 crowd. Our message in the Front Range includes these key brand elements and outstanding price/value offerings to the guest through lift and lodging packages, the Steamboat Card and the Value Passes.
Q. United Airlines recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Are there any long-term implications on the jet program and Yampa Valley Regional Airport? Given United's problems, has attracting a second commercial carrier into the airport on a year-round basis taken on added significance?
A. We do not see any short-term impacts of United's recent filing; however, their long-term situation is an area of focus for our marketing team. Air Wisconsin (United Express) is a very solid company and continues to be a terrific partner, but based on the current relationships, its ability to succeed in this region is largely based on United Airlines' feed into the Denver hub.
United Airlines and United Express make up nearly 40 percent of the total available airline seats into our valley. While this is a significant portion of our seats, our diversified portfolio of air carriers makes us less susceptible to potential negative impacts when compared to many of our competitors. The United Airlines situation is something we have been and will be closely monitoring and planning around over the coming months.
Relative to attracting a second carrier, we are in fact aggressively pursuing year-round service (targeting a start-up of summer 2003) on Continental Airlines. The service we are pursuing is a daily regional jet -- 50-seat capacity -- from Houston. However, this effort was initiated based on our community's desperate, well-documented need for additional airlines seats in the summer months -- it was not based on United Airlines' filing. We will need the direct support of local businesses to be successful with our efforts to bring in supplemental summer air service.
Q. The ski area turns 40 next month. How do you plan to celebrate the anniversary?
A. We are celebrating this important anniversary throughout the entire season and plan to celebrate our 40th with the whole community over a special weekend in mid-January. We've had 40th anniversary packages in the marketplace, special branding throughout all marketing campaigns and in partnership with Mountain Sports Media helped develop the first definitive book on the ski area's history, "Steamboat Ski Town USA." Currently, our visitors see special signage and banners throughout the base area and town that celebrate our anniversary and the people who had the vision to build this world-class ski resort in this very special town. We will be placing a special emphasis throughout all celebrations on these visionaries and leaders -- people like Mr. Jim Temple.
We will be hosting a special gala on Jan. 17 that will benefit the Tread of Pioneers Museum and on Jan. 19, we will be hosting a special public celebration at the base of the mountain. All programs will include a tribute to our past but most importantly will take note of the resort's unique heritage and will all truly be communitywide celebrations.
Q. Look ahead 10 years and tell us how you think the ski area will be different when it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.
A. There will certainly be physical changes. Don't be surprised if the Sunshine chair is replaced with a high-speed lift and another Four Points-type hut is located on the mountain. (Of course, we would only consider looking into these types of improvements with input from our partners at the United States Forest Service.) And our base facilities will continue to be upgraded, with a special focus and emphasis on Gondola Square.The most notable thing about Steamboat will be what hasn't changed -- particularly those elements of the Steamboat experience that matter most: genuine Western friendliness, real town, appeal to families, great snow and uncrowded slopes.
As each year passes, more and more of our guests will appreciate these qualities and recognize how they differentiate us from our competition in Colorado.he Steamboat experience will be just the same in 10 years as it has been for the past 40 years.