Our View: Will plans become reality?

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Last weekend, a small group of local resort leaders stood on the new stage in Gondola Square and toasted the assembled crowd on the completion of the base area promenade and related projects.

The ceremony was worthwhile. The construction of the promenade and the permanent stage facility, which includes badly needed public restrooms, are the most significant achievements to date of the public-private partnership borne out of the Urban Renewal Authority. The base of Steamboat Ski Area never has been more attractive and inviting, but the improvements also serve as a reminder of how much investment still needs to be made in our ski resort. Specifically, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., through its parent company, must invest significant capital in on-mountain amenities and services simply to catch up to what the best resorts in the Colorado Rockies already offer.

It’s not as though Ski Corp. isn’t aware of the ski area’s shortcomings. A recently released update to the ski area’s master plan provides a 10-year road map of needed improvements. From expanded terrain to new on-mountain dining facilities and upgraded chairlifts, the master plan update provides some of the specific infrastructure projects that truly could modernize our resort.

But plans are not reality. Reality is that the ski area has lagged behind the top Rocky Mountain resorts for years in terms of base area and on-mountain amenities. For a time, that was partly the result of Ski Corp.’s financial success being used to underwrite then-parent company American Skiing Co.’s ambitious expansion plans across its various resorts, as opposed to the bulk of those dollars being reinvested in the local product. More recently, Ski Corp.’s capital budget presumably has been handcuffed by the financial struggles of parent company Intrawest, which is a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group.

Ski Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond should be applauded for ensuring his organization could move forward with construction of the permanent Gondola Square stage as well as installing a snowmelt system under new pavers in the square.

However, Diamond’s real test will come in the form of implementing many of the more substantial improvements called for in the master plan. Expanding the Four Points Hut and other on-mountain dining facilities are at the top of the list. Close behind should be a renovation of Ski Corp.’s Gondola Square buildings, including the gondola building and office space, to conform with modern base design standards. The completion of One Steamboat Place and its plaza have spotlighted just how dated Gondola Square buildings really are. Further down the list, but still important, is expanded terrain and chairlift upgrades.

We’d be naive to think all of the projects included in the 10-year master plan will be completed in the next decade. And while it’s good to see an updated master plan that acknowledges many of the ski area’s shortcomings, it will mean very little if the Steamboat Ski Area doesn’t look substantially different in 2020.

Comments

boatwatch 2 years, 10 months ago

8 years ago the partnership of the Mueller family and local investors was set to buy the Steamboat Ski area from ASC. That partnership would have reinvested an average of $3-$5 million annually back into the ski area. Much of the next 10 years wish list would have already been completed by today. Vail Resorts made sure that transaction did not occur. Instead the ski area fell into the hands of voracious, over leveraged hedge fund managers who had no reason to own ski areas other than to suck the cash flow away to their myriad of financial disasters. Until the Steamboat Ski Area is owned by a smaller more paternalistic entity , 10 year wish lists will be mere dreams.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

So what happens when you overlay a graph of skier days vs sales tax revenues or number of local jobs? You find out that the local economy is very slightly affected by skier days.

Ski area will do what they think is best for their business. Unlike what local mythmakers would have us believe, it will have little impact on the local economy. As long as there isn't a radical change of closing the ski area, the potential difference of chairlifts, terrain or more dining is virtually insignificant to the local economy.

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mtroach 2 years, 10 months ago

The biggest impact ski corp could do to drive customers to their ticket windows is lower lift ticket prices to $80. Saving cash on a day's skiing will bring customers to town and increase participation. I for one think taxpayers would have been better off subsidising lift chair seats than airline seats.

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steamboatsprings 2 years, 10 months ago

Scott, you really do live in an alternate reality. Our ski experience / business is intricately tied to our local economy. One is naive or has their own agenda to find a way to interpret the data otherwise.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 10 months ago

The plan will become reality only if Fortress (Ski Corp) can find some way to use tax money to do it. The Fortress executives are too busy lining their own pockets to spend money on improvements.

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 2 years, 10 months ago

now that the tax payer is on the hook for part of the airline subsidy, Ski Corp should have extra $$ to build bigger and better places to sell overpriced food and drinks. Hooray!

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Rossiman 2 years, 10 months ago

This will be like waiting for Congress to act. Ski Corp. is waiting for more skiers to come before they spend money to get the mountian up to the standards other resorts have set. And the skiers will be waiting for the improvements to happen before they come back. Regarding their having to wait for a couple of years to get Forest Service approval on the projects. 2 if not 3 years ago they already had approval to replace or expand 4 Points Hut. They announced it and were selling T shirts to comemorate the old one. They are as good as Congress at BS and stalling.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Steamboatsprings, Anonymously insulting me and ignoring the facts does not make you right. What year was peak skier days? When was peak Routt County employment, peak SB sales tax? And so on. Skier days have not increased for a decade and yet the local economy and population have grown substantially since then.

Sure, the ski area is important to the local economy, but the data is clear that skier days is not closely linked to the state of the local economy. I think what affects the local economy is whether or not the ski area is adequate, not whether it has better dining at Four Points or additional terrain.

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telebikebird 2 years, 10 months ago

Boatwatch-

How did Vail Resorts make sure the transaction involving The Muellers/Local Investors and ASC not occur??

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