ASC makes 'good move'

Some residents applaud company's decision to put ski area on market

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— While eating breakfast at a Steamboat Springs cafe Saturday morning, Lindsay Schneider said she couldn't be happier that American Skiing Company is looking for buyers for the Steamboat Ski Area.

Her feelings weren't uncommon Saturday, a day after ASC officials announced their intention to test the market for buyers.

ASC and the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., a division of ASC, has endured a rocky relationship with locals over the years. That relationship took a hit in 2002 after ASC, at the last minute, backed out of a deal to sell the ski area to Tim and Diane Mueller, who since have purchased Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

As the operator of Steamboat's most significant economic driver and favorite play area for locals, Ski Corp. and its leaders often find themselves the target of criticism, unfounded or not.

"Ski Corp. is just really unorganized. They have no idea what they're doing," said Schneider, a Steamboat resident.

As a resident, Schneider said she has never felt that Ski Corp. is in tune with the community or cared about its employees.

"I think they have a really negative relationship with the locals. They don't care about their employees, which is sad because so many people in Steamboat work for them," she said.

Steamboat resident Tom Wis-

niewski agreed.

"I think this is a good move," Wisniewski said about a potential sale. "Hopefully it will help, because I hate Ski Corp, or Ski America, or whatever they call themselves. They're overpriced and they don't (care) about anyone," he said.

Schneider hopes that if a sale transpires, the ski area will be sold to locals or to people like the Muellers.

"I hope that whatever happens next, that the mountain won't just try to make themselves look good in the community and that they'll actually care about their employees," she said. "They cater to the tourists, but we're the ones that are working there. We're the ones they should care about."

Ski area spokespersons Mike Lane and Heidi Thomsen could not be reached to comment Saturday about locals' opinions about Ski Corp.

Steve Chavez, owner of Mothers Deli in Ski Time Square, had a different take on ASC/Ski Corp.

Chavez said he wasn't shocked to hear the ski area was for sale. He said he isn't sure that a new company buying the mountain would be anything more than a business transaction.

"I'm sure the people who own it now bought it to make money, and they're probably selling it to make more money. The next people who are going to buy it probably just want to make money, too," he said. "They're just doing what they have to do. That's all."

Chavez said he thinks Ski Corp. has an amicable relationship with the community.

"As far as I know, they have a good relationship," he said.

Chavez said regardless of who owns the ski area, it should be business as usual for Mothers.

"I don't think what happens will impact me at all. As long as there are skiers, they have to eat," he said.

Tracy Barnett, the executive director of Main Street Steamboat Springs, said she is eager to see whether the sale is actually completed and hopes any potential owner plans to continue upgrading the ski area and the surrounding base.

"I think they're just testing the market and all the residents are a little leery. I'm hopeful that a new owner would put a little confidence back into the whole thing," she said.

Barnett said it has taken the community a while to bounce back from the 2002 incident during which ASC backed out of the deal to sell the ski area to the Muellers.

"Recently, (Ski Corp.'s) relationship with the community has gotten a lot better, but all the stuff that happened with the Muellers left us with a black eye for a long time. It might be more on an even keel now, but it wasn't for a long time," she said. "I'm hopeful."

ASC's plan to proceed with current and future improvements for the ski area even if the sale does not transpire made Barnett feel a little more comfortable.

"It's encouraging to hear that they'll continue with all their plans whether they sell or not," she said. "I really do think people are hopeful."

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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