If you go
What: 2009 Navigator Awards, presented at the 102nd annual meeting and luncheon of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St.
Cost: $25 per person, $235 for a corporate table
Speaker: Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association, will discuss "The Future of Skiing in Colorado."
Contact: RSVP by the end of today at 875-7000 or online at www.steamboat chamber.com
Steamboat Springs It's been nearly a year since Chuck Porter stepped down as general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, but that doesn't mean he hasn't kept busy.
Porter is the 2009 recipient of the Navigator Award for Business Leader of the Year. The honor, awarded by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Steamboat Pilot & Today, will be presented Friday. The ceremony will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Ghost Ranch Saloon on Seventh Street during the Chamber's annual meeting and luncheon.
Sitting in a brown leather chair off the Sheraton lobby Tuesday afternoon, Porter spoke easily about his decision to leave the Sheraton after 19 years at the helm. But he admitted going through withdrawal after a transitional period in which he assisted new General Manager John Curnow.
"There's a letting-go process," he said.
Part of that process was staying away from the place he spent as many as six days a week during ski season. Keeping his distance allowed him to move on and stay out of Curnow's way, Porter said.
Still, he said, it wasn't easy.
"Most of my professional career was at this base area," he said. "I feel good about it. It was a chapter I look back on and I'm fond of. I was ready to move on to the next chapter. I am confident with the process and that decision."
Porter's new chapter began shortly after he left the Sheraton. He began working for one of the six partners who split ownership of the Sheraton before it was acquired by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.
Porter wouldn't say much about his new role except that he works on personal projects. But Porter said he's keeping busy. Part of his time still is spent working with groups to ensure the future success of Steamboat Ski Area. Porter still serves as treasurer of the Local Marketing District, which helps negotiate contracts that provide minimum revenue to secure air service to Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Chris Diamond, president of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said Porter played a "huge role" in the creation of the marketing district, which has been vital to the Yampa Valley.
"That has saved our collective butts the last few years," he said. "We've been able to maintain consistent air service to the valley, and nothing is more important to our long-term success."
Diamond remembers meeting Porter on his first day at Ski Corp. 11 years ago. He said in addition to the marketing district, Porter was instrumental in helping create the Base Area Reinvestment Coalition, the precursor to the Urban Renewal Authority. Porter also has served on the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Committee. Diamond said he worked closely with Porter on efforts to improve the base area.
"It's probably the most significant relationship I've had in terms of business, but it's also been the most productive," Diamond said. "We describe it as being wedded at the hip right here at the base of the ski mountain. We've worked through a number of challenges, but all successfully."
Porter, a Colorado Springs native, felt the pull back to the state in late 1979, when he was working at a resort in Florida. With all his possessions in the trunk of his Volkswagen Scirocco and "maybe" $500 in his pocket, Porter set out to return west.
Landing in Steamboat, he initially couldn't find a resort job but was able to snag one in the hospitality industry. He worked the night desk at the Iron Horse Inn, checking guests in and out, in exchange for a room.
That changed when he became the Sheraton's banquet manager in July 1980. Porter became front office manager in 1982. He served in a couple of roles with Thunderhead Lodge and Ski Time Square from 1984 until being named the general manager of the Sheraton in 1989.
Sandy Evans Hall, the Chamber's executive vice president, met Porter in 1981 when she was the restaurant manager at Thunderhead. They have worked together since, she said.
Evans Hall said Porter's tenure at the Sheraton brought consistency to the base area after previous general managers were gone after a year or two. She said Porter brought a "very strong voice at a major property."
"With any critical industry or leader in the community, when you have someone that's invested for a long period of time, they tend to take a longer-range view of the issue," Evans Hall said. "Strategic changes over time, I think that's been one of the successes in the longevity of ski area management."
Porter said he was "extremely humbled, honored and appreciative" to receive the Business Leader of the Year Award.
Porter said he was surprised by the honor because there are so many people in the community who have contributed.
"I feel that I've been in a support role," he said. "I've had this operation and this asset that was my responsibility. : I never made a decision or advanced anything for personal recognition.
"I did it for the hotel, the operation, the bigger group," he added, referring to the community.
Evans Hall said Porter deserved recognition for his work with the Urban Renewal Authority and marketing district.
"These two things will probably have the greatest impact on our community long term," she said.
Diamond said, given Porter's leadership roles with the Chamber and other groups that have worked to benefit the ski and base area, "I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone else in Steamboat who has impacted as much in meaningful ways."