Our view: Cyclists camped in the grand ballroom

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A big slice of the Steamboat Springs resort community went to extraordinary lengths last week to allow the venerable Ride the Rockies bicycle tour to make a two-night stop in Bike Town USA. We think resort leaders and their lieutenants deserve recognition for the diligence and collaboration that was required.

Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Tyler Goodman, community representative
  • John Merrill, community representative

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Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern said that when his staff called Steamboat Springs High School this spring with the good news that Ride the Rockies was once again favoring Steamboat with a layover day for their 2,100 cyclists, there was an ominous silence at the other end of the phone followed by these words: “Uh, we’re still in school on those dates.”

For those who haven’t been around the event, Ride the Rockies, which covers 471 miles and eight major mountain passes this year, long has based at Steamboat Springs High School when it comes through town. The high school is removed from traffic, has adequate parking, and perhaps most importantly, has locker rooms with showers for sweaty cyclists.

“This was our most challenging year of getting Ride the Rockies here,” Kern said Friday. “I think it’s kind of that attitude everyone has in Steamboat – we find a way to work together to make things happen even though sometimes the solution is unusual.”

Kern’s special event and sponsorship director Lindy Schwanke and director of marketing Kara Stoller shouldered much of the load. After researching several sites (Howelsen Hill already booked for a baseball tournament), the base of Steamboat Ski Area was selected. Making that work took the cooperation of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

Kern said many of the Ride the Rockies participants choose to camp out at each stop. In order to make that work at the base of the ski area, the Sheraton allowed some of the cyclists to roll out their sleeping bags in the grand ballroom.

One could reasonably ask: If the Ride the Rockies cyclists only spend two nights here and don’t make as much of a positive impact on lodging room nights, why is it important to go to such lengths to accommodate them?

In recent years, the Bike Town USA brand alone would seem to justify the effort.

“It’s a great event that puts us on the map with that group,” Kern said. “We received nothing but positive feedback on how it all worked out.”

And Ride the Rockies, which falls mid-week between the Steamboat Marathon and the Mustang Roundup, does have an immediate economic impact.

“Part of our challenges is that we don’t measure sales tax numbers on a daily basis,” Kern said. “The number that Ride the Rockies provides is that they typically spend $200,000 to $250,000 in each town.”

Kern said the organizers say an additional 500 to 600 people show up to support the cyclists, and based upon what his staff saw this year, that seemed realistic. If the total number of participants and camp followers is between 2,500 and 3,000, a $250,000 spend here strikes Kern as being realistic.

We think that what is more difficult to quantify is the benefits that accumulate from Steamboat’s reputation as a welcoming resort that can pull off big events in the face of challenges. Steamboat’s resort leaders have certainly proved that time and again in both summer and winter. And it’s that kind of effort and that level of hospitality that attracts visitors back to town.

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