Sandy Evans Hall knows just where to go when the pressures of her job begin to build. Last weekend, it was Elk Park for a 16-mile hike with her family.
"I actually have quite a few weekends I do take off," Evans Hall said. "I would go stir crazy if I couldn't. We really like to go hiking and kayaking, and I enjoy river camping. It helps me get a perspective. It really isn't life and death."
Evans Hall is celebrating 20 years of employment with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and almost five as its executive vice president.
Although she's the "boss" at the chamber, Evans Hall might have more bosses than anyone in town.
Ulrich Salzgeber, former chamber board president and one of Evans Hall's many former bosses, said Evans Hall has a rare ability to please competing interests.
"I can't think of another person who could handle it the way she has," Salzgeber said. "She has to keep everyone happy, from the city and county to her board of directors and every business owner in town. Everybody thinks they can do the job better, but talk about walking a tightrope."
Steamboat's resort landscape was very different when Evans Hall arrived from Seattle, Wash., in the early '80s.
Initially, she worked for Terry Sports and the Sheraton Hotel. In those days, the Sheraton was managed by ITT corporation, and general manager John Henderson was trying to boost family visitation to the resort in summer with a promotion called "The Way it Wuz Days." It featured American Indian powwows and mountain-man rendezvous, among other events.
When, after two years, it failed to take off the way the Sheraton hoped, hotel management announced the end of the promotion and plans to close the next summer.
From that low point, Evans Hall said, Steamboat rebuilt its summer tourism. The business community, together with the city, created a vendors fee to fund tourism promotion. The chamber gradually added a few elements from the "Way it Wuz" concept. Rainbow Weekend, the Chili Cook-Off and the vintage auto races all had roots in the Way it Wuz, she said.
Evans Hall began her career with the chamber as its first full-time membership director, and during 11 years she built membership from 250 to 700 businesses and individuals. Among the programs she established were the Shop Steamboat campaign and the Winter Expo, which allows activity businesses to introduce themselves to new resort employees.
Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., said Evans Hall has been a valuable liaison between the ski area and other institutions.
"Sandy has been an outstanding conduit between the Ski Corp. and the entire business community," Wirth said. "At the same time, she's appropriately challenged us in some delicate situations. And she's always handled herself professionally. She's quick to smile, and she's always personable."
Wirth said that, in his estimation, one of the biggest challenges Evans Hall has faced is adapting to a constantly changing political landscape.
"Just think of how much has changed in 20 years," Wirth said. "It's an entirely different environment, politically."
Evans Hall helped the resort community adjust to and survive the travel downturn of the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, he said.
"Sandy has Steamboat Springs in her heart," Wirth said. "She's of, by and for Steamboat Springs."
"You have to have a little bit of a thick skin" to lead the chamber, Evans Hall said. "But you also need a good vision of what you're doing. Working on the economic health of the community to provide jobs and help people put food on the table is a rewarding thing."
And she can't get enough of the Yampa Valley's outdoor lifestyle.
The day after last week's 16-mile hike in Elk Park, Evans Hall could be found in her kayak, enjoying the late June whitewater.