Our View: Good start under circumstances | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Good start under circumstances

Snow is perhaps our most precious commodity. So hats off to the entire community for getting the 2011-12 ski season off to a strong start without the benefit of the powder levels we've grown accustomed to.

Now, let's cross our fingers we can turn the clock back 16 years to January 1996, when a record 216.5 inches of snow fell on the heels of a lackluster December.

Steamboat has but 70 inches of snow so far this season. Brown hillsides tell the story. Still, the crowds downtown and at the mountain the past two weeks reveal things are going well and that guests are enjoying their stay. Lodging numbers are up through the first week in January, and retail businesses are giving favorable reports about the holiday shopping season. Perhaps most importantly, spirits are up among the skiers at the mountain.

"It's great. I love it," offered Beth Smith, of Kansas City.

"It's fantastic," said Kevin Leonard, a skier from England.

From Texan Ryan Turner: "There's snow on the ground, and it's groomed. I like this kind of skiing."

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Credit for the strong start should be spread throughout the community. Some to single out:

Snowmakers and groomers at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. have kept the mountain in good shape given the conditions. Steamboat's open terrain and snow base rival any ski area in the country.

We can't say enough about the Urban Renewal Authority's public promenade at the base of the ski area. The heated walkway and the firepits dramatically change the experience for visitors.

The same can be said for the improvements at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Kudos to Routt County for moving forward with the opening of Three Wire Bar & Grill, the new restaurant at the airport, despite the lack of a vendor. Sales at the restaurant are expected to be double what the airport's previous eatery recorded last December. Perhaps even more importantly, arriving guests now have a wonderful first impression of the Yampa Valley. That's key considering inbound flights have been running at about 90 percent capacity and the number of inbound passengers is up 5 to 7 percent.

Finally, hats off to the city's retail stores and restaurants. Shopping always is a key vacation component, and even more so when our ski resort enjoys such an extended run of sunny weather. Local retailers have done a great job of creating events, extending hours and even opening on Christmas Day to accommodate guests' needs. It was pretty vibrant downtown most of December.

Yes, snow matters. It matters a lot, and we certainly are going to need more of it in the months ahead, especially between Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 and Presidents Day weekend, which starts Feb. 18. So pray, let out a snow call, put your trail map in the freezer or do anything else that might help.

But also remember what happened in the last month of 2011. The mix of amenities available for visitors to enjoy and the way they are treated when they are here matter as much as snow. We all have a role in the latter.

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