Skis and snowboards are stacked outside the new Four Points Lodge on Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Skis and snowboards are stacked outside the new Four Points Lodge on Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area.

Four Points Lodge elevates fine dining at Steamboat Ski Area to 9,700 feet

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Four Points Lodge opens

Steamboat Ski Area's new Four Points Lodge opened part of its facilities on Scholarship Day.

Steamboat Ski Area's new Four Points Lodge opened part of its facilities on Scholarship Day.

At the old Four Points Lodge: Always on guard against shark attacks

Former Steamboat patrolman Bill Martin recalls the old days when the only public amenity offered by the Four Points Shack was a public bathroom of which most skiers were unaware. The main purpose of the little building beneath the upper terminal of the original Four Points double chair was to house the chairlift’s motor room and cramped ski patrol offices.

“It was all concrete, and you could literally climb up a ladder into lift operations,” Martin said. “There was a table with chairs (but no means of heating a hot lunch), and a bed meant for first-aid.”

Of course, no ski patroller would ever catch a catnap on the bed. That was reserved for mild days when patrollers dragged their chairs outside the shack to bask in the winter sun. But anyone who dared to doze in the sun was at risk of a shark attack.

“The guys from the Priest Creek shack would come over there down Storm Peak at high speed and spray us with snow in a shark attack,” Martin remembered. “You wouldn’t see them coming, and the good ones would just bury everyone sitting outside.”

The sharks included guys like Wes Richey, Larry Schnackenberg and Matt Newman, Martin said.

The old Four Points shack is gone, but skiers who want to glimpse what it looked like can find a virtual copy at the top of the mostly dormant Priest Creek double chair, which is still held in reserve on the other side of the ski area.

Four Points Lodge at a glance

Steamboat vice president of resort services: James Snyder

Chef: John Shaw

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. project manager: Michael Gumbiner

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. building manager: Christine Gumbiner

Building designer: Laurie Kohler, Kohler Design

General contractor: Calcon Constructors, Steamboat Springs

Calcon Constructors project manager: Jim Kohler

Interior design features: Three Dimensional Services, British Columbia

— Loyal Steamboat skiers who visit the new Four Points Lodge this holiday weekend may struggle to remember that once upon a time, a humble ski patrol shack occupied the space.

Steamboat Ski Area unveiled its new, on-mountain dining facility Nov. 27 with a limited opening offering barbecue service on the deck and drinks in the bar. The full dining room is expected to open by the middle of December. That’s when the menu will offer fresh pastas and salads and dishes like cedar plank grilled salmon.

It has comfortable seating for 200 diners, a state-of-the-art kitchen designed to serve the freshest, healthiest foods of any restaurant above 9,700 feet. And the building was strategically located to afford dramatic views of skiers in action, both swooping down Storm Peak and dropping out of sight as they crest the lip of trails like Tornado and Nelson’s Run.

Longtime ski area spokesman Mike Lane said the new dining experience at Four Points is emblematic of a concerted effort the ski area has been making for years.

“The experience our guests will have here is part of a five-year effort to elevate the culinary experience across the mountain,” Lane said.

Steamboat Vice President of Resort Services James Snyder, who has had a hand in opening 10 on-mountain facilities at a variety of ski areas, said care has been taken to offer a range of culinary experiences on the ski slopes, with Four Points introducing northern Italian cuisine to complement the Scandinavian cuisine of Ragnar’s, the family-style barbecue on the third floor of Thunderhead and the creative American food served at Hazie’s. Also, Hazie’s will shift from its prix fixe menu to an a la carte menu this year.

The new facility, with its contemporary take on the classic ski lodge, makes the original facilities seem quaint by comparison.

The 13,000-square-foot lodge replaces the undersized 1,000-square-foot facility that skiers and snowboarders have packed themselves into since 1992. But before that, it was even more rustic. The original Four Point ski patrol shack, one of three on the upper mountain, shared a concrete bunker with the motor room beneath the upper terminus of the old Four Points chairlift.

“There was a picture window, and you walked in the door and down a hall to the right to get to ski patrol. There was a public bathroom to the left,” former ski patrolman Bill Martin recalled. “The noise from the chairlift and the vibration was incredible. But I think that still is the best place on the mountain. It's sunny, and it’s warm, and it’s the coolest view spot.”

The modern Four Points Hut was built in 1992 right over the top of the old patrol shack after the chairlift of the same name was extended and moved a few degrees to the south.

About the food

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Executive Chef Chris Wyant said the emphasis at Four Points for the noon meal will be on freshly prepared meals that can be ordered as guests come down the serving line. For example, he is importing fresh ramen for an Asian noodle bowl.

The chicken Dijon preparation will feature freshly roasted chicken, chick peas and roasted vegetables.

Breads served at Four Points, including the focaccia, will come from Boulder’s Breadworks, where bread is made by hand.

“We want the menu to have a marketplace feel,” Wyant said. The New England-style clam chowder and the bison chili will be made in Four Points, and all of the burgers served in the dining room will be bison burgers (though beef burgers will be available on the deck, where the staff will work under a permanent shed roof to protect themselves from the elements).

Lane hastened to add that there are more economical options, including grilled cheese panini in the serving line as well as take-and-go items off one corner of the handsome bar that faces Storm Peak.

Guests are also welcome to enjoy their own lunches on one of a half-dozen indoor picnic tables built by craftsman Dennis Lodwick from local beetle-killed pine. They are located at the lower entrance to Four Points where skiers may enter to shop at a small gift store and use the spacious restrooms.

Ski area Public Relations Manager Loryn Kasten said shoppers are welcome to take their purchases away in a small knapsack that will be provided or take advantage of courier service delivering merchandise to the bottom of the ski area for later pickup.

Dinner service

Steamboat will begin an exclusive fine-dining experience at Four Points Lodge later this winter for no more than 52 people in four seatings per night. Guests will reach Four Points from the top of the gondola via a luxury snow coach that seats 13 in plush bucket seats.

“The difference is that this will be much more high touch, Snyder said. Chef John Shaw will come out to the tables to greet the guests and prepare Caesar salads table side and to pour soups. Shaw came to prominence during his summer residency at the Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport, Me.

Diners will order their own entrees but share the traditional first course of pasta family style, and the same will be true of the dessert.

Looking ahead to winter 2014-15, the ski area intends to add a second, larger snowcat that seats 20 to offer the Four Points dinner service to more guests.

Snyder observed that the snow coach to Four Points will be a memorable experience for families and particularly for some members of the older generation who might not otherwise experience the mountain above the summit of Thunderhead.

Steamboat’s cowboy bar

Snyder said the ski area knew that it wanted the bar at Four Points to have a cowboy motif, but it wanted that theme to be understated. The solution was to build a timeline of famous cowboys and cowgirls, both real and the Hollywood variety.

Instead of pictures of the cowboys themselves, they are represented by brushed steel replicas of their personal cowboy hats set into the concrete bar top. So every bar stool is set in front of a historic cowboy hat — Annie Oakley from the 1880s, for example. You also can choose between bellying up to Billy Kidd or Billy the Kid. They’re two different people, you know.

Elsewhere in the bar, there are customized light fixtures and decorative items that evoke the story of how Four Points got its name.

Anyone would be forgiven for assuming that Four Points is a crossroads on the ski area where four trails come together. But the truth is the location got its name one day when ski area pioneers Gordy Wren and John Fetcher were high on the mountain and spotted a mule deer buck with four tines on each side of its antlers — hence the name Four Points.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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Comments

walt jones 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Can we see the dollar signs now?? Disappointing to look up at night and see more than just the Thunderhead building light up.

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Mark Ruckman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Walt, I'm sure when Thunderhead was built some complained about seeing that building.

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jerry carlton 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Look to bright side Walt. Maybe the rich tourists will spend enough there so we do not have to raise the sales tax to keep paying the airlines to fly them to Steamboat. Probably not, but there is always hope.

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John St Pierre 8 months, 3 weeks ago

perhaps the city could pass a special sales tax for 4points dedicated to paying for those airline seats????

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Zac Brennan 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice article, Tom. Too bad the first three comments were from the resident naysayers.

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Mark Ruckman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry if my post came across as complaining, I think the new lodge is great.

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mark hartless 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder if it would be a different group of "naysayers" if someone beloved by liberal Steamboat, say... Dick Cheney, wanted to build a mansion in a similar location...

I wonder how much time was put into the EIS and how much that study was scrutinized for this project and if it was held to the same standards as snowmobiler parking lots. If the same standards were used on Buff Pass and Rabbit Ears we would have ample parking years ago. Snowmobilers have had to endure more than a decade of excuses, red tape, environmental bs, etc trying to get a simple parking lot enlarged on Buff Pass. The lodge on the ridge line got done, snowmobiler parking STILL WAITING.

Double Standard is now "standard" with the gubbamint.

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Ben Tiffany 8 months, 3 weeks ago

it's only natural that you would bring snowmobiles into the discussion,Mark.

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Pat West 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark, too bad you snowmobiles don't have a multi-million dollar company to push your ideas through the government red tape. Uncle Sam don't care about citizens, only rich corporations. Great job to Ski corp for improving this spot!

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jerry carlton 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I think the new building is great but I will never quit complaining about paying to bring skiiers to Steamboat. If they can not afford an airline ticket, they should drive. I should not be forced to pay to bring them here.

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mark hartless 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Ben, I'm simply pointing out the double standards in how motorized vs non-motorized forest users are treated AND the hypocricy of many skiers who consider themselves more environmentally friendly but can't muster any criticism of putting a lodge on a ridgeline, something Routt County has rules AGAINST. Why? Because it's something they expect to personally enjoy, no?

The arguments leveled against some of the oil rigs around the county would fit this new lodge like a glove. Not to mention oil is more needed than skiing. Yet the same people who whail about those oil rigs are silent about the ski lodge.

BTW I personally do not have a problem with this new facility. It's the double standard that disappoints me.

Would it EVER be permitted to put a similar building up on Buff Pass for snowmobilers? Would it ever be permitted to build a snowmobile trail from town up to Buff Pass so snowmobilers could drink in a bar and then go riding??

Pat, I agree. Too bad we sled-heads don't have stronger representation.

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rhys jones 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark -- I think the point is that it was private capital that built Four Points. If you can find investors to build a lodge on Buff, (or do it yourself) all you need to do is clear an environmental impact statement and get a special use permit (anything else?) and you can build your own, rake in all the snowmobiler bucks.

As I recall, the ridgeline regs got mired, because they couldn't decide who has a right to the view -- the residents? travelers on nearby roads? -- and in this case, nobody's view is impacted; that ridge is surrounded by ski area. There was already a structure there. Nobody complained about it.

My main problem with the new Four Points is that now the throngs will discover my favorite run.

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mark hartless 8 months, 3 weeks ago

And I'm certainly not suggesting public funds be used for snowmobiler shacks. Nevertheless, the land under the new shack, normally a sizeable percentage of a buildings overall costs, is public. In addition to that "donation" by the public is the implied commitment from the USFS that this facility and the private company that profits from it (whether it be the current owner or a new one) will/has been given a very long term commitment to rights to using that land. This is something that snowmobilers NEVER get.

I will also repeat that private companies build oil rigs, cell towers, power plants, etc with private funds and that doesn't stop the environmental crowd from protesting using arguments which can easily be applied to Four Points. Where are they on this one? Inside that lodge having a beer... quietly...?? nuff said... sincerely hope everyone enjoys the new facility for years to come... cheers.

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Ben Tiffany 8 months, 3 weeks ago

There is a large shed or garage structure on Rabbit Ears Pass that is used to store a snowcat and other equipment used by a commercial snowmobile tour operator to groom trails. I think that this is fine: I certainly have no objection to it. Is this building on public land? I don't know for sure,but I believe that it is. I expect that the tour operator has a permit from the forest service for this business,just like the ski corp. has for its business. I never asked the ski corp.to build us a new lodge at Four Points,and it doesn't matter what my opinion is on the matter;it's there now. Yes,I will certainly use it. Your argument is weak,Mark.

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john bailey 8 months, 3 weeks ago

anybody wanna thank the subs who busted their arse getting this thing done? I do , good job guys and especially the plumbers, ~;0) (phil) can't wait to see it in person, hey who has a spare lift pass?

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mark hartless 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Ben, FYI The snowcats that groom Rabbit Ears are: 1) One owned and ran by Routt Powder Riders with funds collected from snowmobile registrations. It sits outside all winter. 2) The second groomer is owned and ran by the snowmobile tour operator because he needs the trails groomed. This cat sits outside too.

And lots of skiers, snowshoers (and recently bikers) use these trails too.

There is NO shed for these groomers.

A third snowcat operates up there owned by CDOT and housed on their property.

Occaisionally CDOT has been kind enough to allow the Powder Riders groomer to use its facilities for emergency maintenance. Otherwise it gets serviced by folks lying on their backs in the snow or muddy parking lot.

No facility exists on the Rabbit Ears, Buff Pass or North Routt portions of Routt Nat Forest, to my knowledge, that does for snowmobilers what Thunderhead, Four Points, and the many base and other facilities do for skiers. Nor would such a facility ever be allowed. And if it were even proposed there would be an uproar from many who see no problemo with Four Points Lodge.

Go take a look at the public comments concerning the proposed snowmobile parking expansion on Rabbit Ears; and we're just talking about some gravel spread out on the dirt.

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Ben Tiffany 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Okay,Mark I stand corrected on he facilities up on Rabbit Ears pass. I appreciate your filling me in on what actually goes on there. I will contend that your comparison of facilities at the Steamboat ski area and the lack of facilities for snowmobilers elsewhere in the county is really not a valid comparison. The ski corp. is a large business,and pays hefty fees to the USFS for the privilege of running a business on Mt. Werner. It provides many jobs both directly and indirectly around the county and in Moffitt County as well. You may argue that it is not a good thing for the forest service to provide public land for a privately-run business,but that was decided many years ago,and it not likely to change. I don't think that comparing the facilities of a ski resort and the ski resort skiers to snowmobile activities makes any sense. Better to compare facilities that might be made available to backcountry skiers,who share much of the same terrain as snowmobilers. I don't know of many lodges built for the use of backcountry skiers around the county,unless you count the Blue Sky snowcat operation on Buffalo Pass,which charges a considerable amount for the services it provides for its guests. The issue of parking made available on either Rabbit Ears or Buffalo Passes has always been complicated and apparently emotional,and I don't have any answers there,but if viewed in strictly economic terms,it's easy to see why facilities like the new Four Points lodge are approved.

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