The permanent stage being built at the base of Steamboat Ski Area is among improvements being made by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. ahead of the 2011-12 ski season.

Photo by John F. Russell

The permanent stage being built at the base of Steamboat Ski Area is among improvements being made by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. ahead of the 2011-12 ski season.

Steamboat Ski Area improvements ramp up ahead of ski season

Projects include concert stage, snowmaking equipment

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— The Steamboat Ski Area is not among the group of Colorado ski areas adding chairlifts or terrain for the upcoming ski season, but its leaders hope modest improvements will benefit the guest experience and make the resort more environmentally friendly.

One of the more visible changes will be the more than 100,000 new pavers installed in Gondola Square along with a 20,000-square-foot snowmelt system. That means snow will no longer have to be removed from the pavement between One Steamboat Place’s gondola plaza and the entrance to the gondola at the base of the ski area.

“It’s the main artery, so we really feel it will improve the guest experience,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said. “When we have those big, huge snow days when it’s just dumping snow ... our crews can’t keep up.”

Ski Corp. would not provide the specific amount of money it is spending on improvements to the ski area for the 2011-12 season. Other improvements include the construction of a bar inside The Cabin restaurant at The Steamboat Grand, seven new high-efficiency snowmaking tower guns, a new groomer, a ski shop inside the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and auto-flush mechanisms on the toilets in Thunderhead.

A permanent stage with a public bathroom facility is under construction at the base area. That cost of that project is being shared between Ski Corp. and the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Colorado ski areas are investing more than $100 million in new lifts, lodges and amenities.

Vail Resorts, owner of four Colorado ski areas as well as Northstar-at-Tahoe in California, is spending about $128 million at its resorts, according to The Denver Post. Additions include a new high-speed chair in Beaver Creek’s Rose Bowl and a new restaurant on Vail Mountain.

Colorado’s other 22 ski areas are injecting more than $50 million into upgrades, with a new chair and terrain at Aspen’s Buttermilk and new lifts at Copper Mountain, Loveland, Monarch and Ski Cooper, the Post reported.

Durango Mountain Resort and Crested Butte Mountain Resort have added zip lines that will be open year-round. Aspen Skiing Co. is constructing its fifth super-green building, the 300-seat Elk Camp restaurant, which is scheduled to open for the 2012-13 season.

Kasten said the improvements at Steamboat Ski Area are the result of an annual effort to identify projects that best serve the ski area, guests and the community. She said the U.S. Forest Service also has approved the ski area’s initial concept for expanding the 4 Points Hut. That approval means the ski area can start design work and install infrastructure.

Kasten said that over the past five years, upgrades to snowmaking has resulted in a 40 percent increase in efficiency. She said the ski area now will have 100 high-efficiency snowguns that produce the same amount of snow with 30 percent less energy.

“We’re continuing to focus on energy-efficient snow production,” Kasten said.

The modifications at the Thunderhead bathrooms should save resources, as well, she said.

Last season, the bathrooms at Rendezvous were outfitted with the auto-flush devices. Kasten said it saved 373,050 gallons of water.

In addition to the privately funded improvements at the ski area, tax dollars are being used to fund drastic changes at the base area promenade, including the daylighting of Burgess Creek. Urban Renewal Area Advisory Committee members will tour the site and see the project’s progress today.

— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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