Steamboat Springs Twenty million dollars later, the Sheraton Steamboat Resort has an elegant new look and - if everything goes as planned - a new identity.
General Manager John Curnow comes from Aspen's trendy Sky Hotel, which can lay claim to making Forbes Traveler's list of top 10 aprÃs ski bars. He's hoping the refurbished 3 Saddles lounge will attract Steamboat residents to come mingle and sip designer cocktails with his guests at the Sheraton.
"It's important to re-invite the local community," Curnow said. "We want Steamboat to be comfortable here. You have to embrace the community. That's been my background."
To make it easier for Steamboat residents to check out the redesign of the public spaces at the Sheraton Steamboat - and hang out at 3 Saddles in the Sevens fine dining restaurant - Curnow will begin offering complimentary valet parking this winter.
Steamboaters who haven't ventured beyond the Sheraton's grand ballroom for a couple of years will be taken aback by the new lobby, the more inviting furniture groupings in 3 Saddles and the cybercafe the Sheraton mothership has branded The Link@Sheraton.
The design aesthetic melds playful '60s-retro fixtures, ski history and ranching artifacts repurposed in glass-covered shadow boxes and designer lighting fixtures, including some that resemble icicles. You have to wander through the place for half an hour to soak it in.
Designers under contract to the Sheraton Steamboat's parent company, Starwood Hotels, cleverly used a large waiting area at the entrance to Sevens to create two distinct areas for wireless warriors. The first provides stools around the arc of a counter in front of a fireplace. It is meant for people who have their own laptops in tow. It's also strategically located next to a large window that overlooks the ski slopes.
Next door is a semi-enclosed circular room with a centerpiece round desk studded with large flat screen computer monitors.
The Link denizens are encouraged to order a bagel or a snack, Sheraton Director of Sales and Marketing Joan Morrison said.
The warm red color of persimmon permeates the redesign of dining rooms, the lobby and all the public spaces at the Sheraton Steamboat, because it's a color that makes people feel good, Morrison said.
The intent is to reinvent the old hotel workstations as a social hub where guys and gals can sip cocktails or hot drinks.
A sophisticated touch
Curnow is determined that 3 Saddles (if you abbreviate the name to just plain Saddles, everybody will know what you mean) lays its rightful claim to being one of the premier aprÃs ski spots in Steamboat based on its unbeatable location at the edge of the slopes. He doesn't want to deter a young crowd, but he's aiming for adults seeking a sophisticated touch.
The music from the new sound system in the lounge is modern soft rock, and the programming is very deliberate. The two flat screens in the lounge will be tuned to adventure ski films, not basketball games. And the menu from Executive Chef Jon Demel promises creativity. His kitchen will put out elk sirloin chili, wine-braised bison short ribs, achiote marinated bone-in chicken breast and rack of wild boar.
The designers have succeeded in creating 15 to 20 intimate seating areas on soft furniture in the lounge.
Rooms get updated, too
The guest accommodations also have undergone a transformation at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. All of the rooms, including the original small-format hotel rooms, have been refurbished with creamy leather on the walls behind the headboards, premium beds and bedding, flat panel televisions and nice touches like freestanding vanities. The small hotel rooms still are limited by their dimensions, but they are decidedly contemporary.
But the showplaces of the hotel's west wing are four new two-bedroom suites created from four original hotel rooms. They feature a nontraditional central living area bracketed by a king suite and two queens on the other side.
The living area resembles a home theater with a large sectional couch backed by the equivalent of a breakfast bar in a custom home.
There is a microwave kitchen robust enough to satisfy anyone's late-night food cravings.
Starwood Vacation Ownership is actively selling fractional vacation ownerships at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort in the previously existing Morningside tower. In fact, Morrison said, it was a key factor in Starwood's decision to purchase the hotel.
Starwood was able to undertake the luxury refurbishing of the condominiums in Morningside into new vacation villas beginning in April and complete the first 21 two- and three-bedroom units of the eventual 45 in seven months. They are now open and hosting guests.
The best way to describe them is to compare the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Villas to some of Steamboat's best ski-in/ski-out condominiums with all of the luxuries of a full-service hotel, including room service and concierge service.
The project continues
The $20 million spent on the public spaces and nightly accommodations at the Sheraton Steamboat are part of a larger $50 million project that continues through next summer with the creation of more suites in the original portion of the Sheraton.
And the work is part of the Sheraton brand's wide investment of $4 billion in new hotels, upgrading 100 exiting U.S. hotels and renovating 50,000 guestrooms and 100 lobbies.
Curnow is excited for his employees and guests to enjoy the new feel of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. But he knows it's not the end all. After seeing his property reduce its number of rooms from 315 to 205, he's confident his staff can offer more individual attention to its guests.
"The design only gets you so far," Curnow said. "We want to offer the personal service of a boutique hotel."