Steamboat Springs The staff at Mountain Resorts is preparing this week for its new role as the management company of The Highmark. Mountain Resorts officials anticipate that it will give the longstanding Steamboat company a luxury product they think already is establishing a new standard for vacation lodgings here.
“Yes, this really does put us in a different market — a higher level market,” Mountain Resorts President Steve Frasier said. “Before, we have not had a lot of opportunity to fill that demand.”
Mountain Resorts manages a large stable of high-end properties — The Mountaineer at Steamboat and the Trails at Storm Meadows are among the very best. However, The Highmark, with its sixth-story penthouses within steps of the gondola, fills an unmet high-end niche, Frasier said.
The dramatically furnished condos have upholstered chairs, for example, with fabrics reflecting a subtle African motif, and hardwood sidetables have a distinct European look.
However, Mountain Resorts Vice President of Operations Michelle Ouimet, who will take direct responsibility for The Highmark, said it would be the level of personal service that will set the property apart. Ouimet (pronounced We-met) said the fact that the property has just 23 condominiums would allow her staff to deliver more individual attention to vacationers.
“We plan to hold hands with our guests from the time of their reservation to the time they depart,” she said.
Larry Mashaw, vice president of sales and marketing for Mountain Resorts’ parent company, Resort Group, said his expectation is that the staff of The Highmark will learn the needs of their guests before they arrive so that they can anticipate their requests rather than waiting to react.
Chuck Porter, former manager of the nearby Sheraton Steamboat, said he thinks some existing Steamboat properties offer their own version of the luxury The Highmnark promises, but he agrees that broadening the availability of high-end lodgings is a positive for the resort.
“I think it’s good for Steamboat to offer a variety of properties and give consumers a broader spectrum to choose from,” Porter said. “I think the very high end will see a fairly narrow demand bandwidth until we get the ski base built back up.”
Porter observed that existing full-service hotels have the advantage of offering room service, a quality that luxury travelers appreciate.
Ouimet said Mountain Resorts has relationships with local chefs who will prepare and serve meals in guests’ condos.
Mashaw confirmed that during high-demand periods of the ski season, the most desirable units at The Highmark could rent for four figures a night.
Mountain Resorts will be the third property management company in place at The Highmark in three years. The original developers retained Crescent Hotels & Resorts to run it in 2008 and turned to Cobb Capital in 2009.
Despite the frequent changes in management, Frasier said he was pleased to find that guest feedback from during winter suggests that there will be no need to reverse any negative public perception of the property.
Tyler Niess, senior director of Intrawest’s marketing arm, Playground Destination Properties, told his audience during the 2010 Economic Summit here this month that research confirms to an increasing degree that vacationers place the most faith in recommendation from their peers on travel-based Internet sites and less faith in traditional media.
Frasier said that guest comments on TripAdvisor.com and on handwritten cards filled out in The Highmark guest suites gave the property universally high scores.
It’s difficult to evaluate the authenticity of vacationers who use pseudonyms while leaving glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. But all 52 people who have left reviews on The Highmark have given it an excellent rating. And the users of TripAdvisor are not known for pulling punches.
Auction precipitates change
The 15 unsold condos at The Highmark were put up for auction in April, and although the live auction netted only a few contracts, they served to establish a price range.
Since the auction, six sales had closed prior to Thursday, when a seventh sold for $770,000.
The sale price for three-bedroom, three-bath unit 3C represents one of the lowest prices paid at The Highmark. The condo originally was listed for $2.2 million.
Frasier said it was the recent sales that contributed to the developers’ decision to seek a locally based property management company that was focused solely on the Steamboat market as they anticipate turning the property over to a homeowners association.
“We have the ability to transition from the developer to the HOA smoothly,” Frasier said. “We’ve been historically tested in that process.”
Quail Run and Cross Timbers are two resort housing developments where Mountain Resorts served in that capacity, he said.
Frasier emphasized that members of the HOA will be among The Highmark’s guests as well as being owners, and they are likely to be among the first to visit this summer.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail email@example.com