Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Every year a new crop of eager resort workers pours into Steamboat Springs, ready for a winter of slicing up powder and serving up dinner for thousands of vacationers.
And every winter, the resort community depends upon those workers to perpetuate Steamboat's reputation as one of the friendliest resorts anywhere. It's that reputation that helped Steamboat rank fifth among North American winter sports resorts in the annual SKI magazine readers poll.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association is working to make sure workers understand the importance of that reputation. "A lot of people have just moved here," Riley Polumbus said. "But it's not like we're telling them 'you've got to smile.'"
Polumbus is the public relations director for the Chamber Resort Association. She is among a few experienced resort leaders who are meeting with employee groups early this winter to present "The Genuine Guest Service Program."
The leaders conducting the presentations understand that friendliness, and especially the genuine variety Steamboat seeks to foster, isn't something that employees turn on like a switch when they punch time clocks. Accordingly, the programs attempt to quickly immerse both new arrivals and Ski Town U.S.A. veterans in the Steamboat culture.
"There's a reason you came here," Polumbus said. "You heard it was a real place and you wanted to be somewhere you can have a real kinship with your locale. It's not something that can be taught -- we're happy to be here."
A key piece of every presentation is a video created by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. videographer Tom Baer. The video is an unabashed celebration of the Steamboat lifestyle and is so infectious even old timers are affected by it.
The cost of the presentation is $25 (no limit on the number of employees) and includes one copy of the "BoatBook" reference guide. Businesses may purchase extra copies of the book for $15 and the training video may be purchased for $10.
Already, almost 1,000 employees have been trained this fall.
"We want to instill pride in who we are, so we tie it in with our ski heritage and our Western heritage to demonstrate that this is a real town," Polumbus said.
The belief has always been that Steamboat's reputation for friendly service to tourists is a natural outgrowth of the local lifestyle, Polumbus said.
Each presentation is tailored to the group, Polumbus said. Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall recently spoke to a small group of employees at Bear Claw Condominiums seated informally on couches. Small groups like that foster an exchange of ideas. But even when Ski Corp.'s Lynne Halliday made a presentation to 200 employees, an effort was made to encourage interaction, Polumbus said.
The Genuine Guest Service program won't end with early winter presentations. Polumbus said plans are in the works for a mid-season bash to reward service employees who underwent the training.