Q. The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. announced $2 million in capital improvements last week. Of the projects, which do you consider the highest priority and why?
A. The Thunderhead improvements rank highest in priority because of the facilities' visibility. We've recognized for a number of years that within our competitive set, the aesthetics of this facility were in significant need of improvement.
We have hired Melick Associates Inc., an architecture, interiors and planning firm out of Denver, to advise on all interior master planning for this room that includes new chairs and lighting so that the project fits into the resort's long-range plans for enhancements.
We're anxious to begin the process of updating this facility because the majority of Steamboat's winter guests rely on this facility extensively throughout the season.
In addition, a major multiyear wayfinding project is under way and guests can look forward this winter to significant signage improvements along Mount Werner.
Q. What's the time frame for completing the projects? Are there any that will take longer than others?
A. At this time, several projects have been completed, such as the Gondola Square base area improvements, Steamboat Ski & Sport patio expansion and the installation of a new digital editing system.
Many locals haven't had the occasion to come to the base of the mountain this summer, but we're excited about the improvements already completed and invite everyone to come see the dramatically enhanced area around Gondola Square.
Most of the resort's other projects will be completed by December.
A few exceptions to this include information systems software and hardware improvements as well as few other behind-the-scenes projects.
Q. Several months ago, Ski Corp. made it clear that new chairlifts weren't going to be part of the equation this budget year. But longer term, are there plans to add or replace lifts, or is it more of a year-by-year decision?
A. The resort is beginning the process of updating our master development plan with the U.S Forest Service.
The master plan includes base area and on-mountain planning issues related to our special-use permit.
The decision on what improvements are made each year will in fact be made on a year-to-year basis. Key successes will be Steamboat's ski season and the overall health of ASC.
Q. What kinds of capital projects that didn't make the cut this year are we likely to see in the coming years?
A. The resort will continue to improve the base area for both summer and winter seasons.
We'll also stay on our plan to replace snowmaking pipe where necessary and continue to make snowmaking system enhancements.
The replacement of Sunshine triple chairlift with a high-speed quad and the replacement of Burgess Creek double chairlift by relocating Sunshine lift to its alignment continues to be on our priority list.
We are working with the city on Gondola Transit Center improvements including pedestrian connections to the base of the ski area.
Initially, we believed this work would take place this summer; however, it now looks like this project will be completed next winter. Depending on the direction the master planning effort takes and the success of the next couple of ski seasons, a second high-speed, out-of-base lift, one that brings skiers and riders to the base of the Thunderhead Express lift may start to become a higher priority.
Q. Given all that has happened this year, particularly ASC's decision to sell Heavenly Ski Resort instead of Steamboat, should we read anything into ASC's decision to make the largest investment in Steamboat that it has in three years? Is ASC trying to send a message about its future in Steamboat?
A. The Steamboat brand is well known throughout the ski and travel industries. ASC recognizes the strength of the Steamboat brand, which includes not only the resort but also the larger community.
That brand strength has translated into consistent financial performance as B.J. Fair acknowledged at the Economic Summit. He made it clear at that time that funding for Steamboat projects would be a priority for the company base on this financial performance.