Steamboat Springs marks 15 years of Navigator Awards
November 10, 2013
Steamboat Springs — There is the opportunity for limitless fun and adventure in Steamboat Springs, but subsiding in a ski town oftentimes is not easy.
Many want to live here, and many have tried.
Some last a winter; others, a couple of years. The passionate find a way to stay.
To build a life here, people like Chris Tamucci make what would appear to be sacrifices and take a warehouse job with their newly printed master's degree in hand. The thought is that if you work hard and put in your time, you can enjoy the Colorado Rockies and raise a family in Steamboat.
Tamucci is doing just that.
The Navigator Awards, presented by the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, honor that drive and recognize the people and businesses who can inspire future leaders.
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This year, Tamucci, the 34-year-old director of operations for Big Agnes, Honey Stinger and BAP, is being honored as the Young Professional of the Year.
Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare is the Business of the Year, and Jim Schneider, with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., is the Business Leader of the Year.
The trio will be honored during a luncheon Tuesday at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
The Navigator Awards cannot be presented this year without recognizing something all three recipients share. Each winner has recognized the important role that cycling has played in Steamboat in recent years and the role they hope it plays in the future.
They all have witnessed the sport's explosion in popularity and have worked closely with the Bike Town USA initiative. The cause is only gaining momentum, and on Tuesday, local voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to spend an estimated $5 million in lodging taxes to build new trails.
'Cursed with competence'
At first glance, it might seem odd that Ski Corp.'s vice president of skier services stepped up to be one of the key players as Steamboat began building its cycling infrastructure. Then again, it made sense that Jim Schneider helped. The resort community, including Schneider, recognized that the additional summer tourism could be good for business.
"The old saying is people come here for the winters and they stay for the summer, and I think summer has a lot of room to grow," said Schneider, this year's Business Leader of the Year.
Showcasing the community would help build the cycling momentum, and Schneider became chairman of the organizing committee tasked with attracting the USA Pro Challenge to Steamboat for the inaugural race in 2011.
"Through that process, I just kind of took the ball and ran with it," Schneider said.
Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said Schneider was a natural fit for that role because Schneider is "cursed with competence." He has proven that during the more than three decades he has lived in Steamboat.
At Steamboat Ski Area, Schneider oversees ski school, competitions, the Kids Vacation Center, summer activities, guest services, lift ticket sales and the rental and retail operations.
"If you've been to the resort, you've been touched by his dedicated efforts," Diamond said.
When it comes to summer, Schneider did not stop at helping attract a professional cycling race to town. He knew it was important to develop a complete cycling experience in Steamboat. After all, not everyone wants to spend hours in the saddle of a road bike or pedal a grueling climb to enjoy cross-country mountain bike trails.
After visiting bike parks in Whistler, British Columbia, and Winter Park, Schneider knew that the ski area would play an important role in the development of Steamboat's cycling scene. The ski area continues to build new trails and this past summer unveiled dedicated carriers to shuttle bikes up the gondola.
"His efforts are the driving force behind the ski area's summer momentum in downhill biking," Diamond said.
This year's Business of the Year also has supported efforts to make Steamboat more of a cycling destination.
After living in Steamboat for a couple of years in the 1980s, Harry Martin along with his wife and newborn baby moved back and opened Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare in 1995. It originally was located on 11th Street. Since then, the business moved to its current location at Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat and opened a second location at the base of the ski mountain last December.
"It's very hard to get someone's foot to fit right in a ski boot, and we built our business around that in the beginning," Martin said. "As the business went along, biking became more and more important."
Back then, Martin said, all Steamboat bike shops combined probably sold 20 road bikes each season.
"Now, there are probably 200 road bikes sold each summer," Martin said. "In the past five or six years, the town has really embraced cycling."
These days, Martin said, bikes and bike products account for between 50 and 60 percent of the business, but selling a lot of bikes is not the reason Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare is being recognized as the Business of the Year.
"Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare has been an integral partner in the Bike Town USA initiative and supporting growth of cycling in the community," Routt County Riders board member Robin Craigen said. "They have sponsored many events, hosted free clinics and raised the standard for bike shop facilities that are essential if Steamboat is to be taken seriously as a cycling destination.
"They have taken an active role with supporting and participating with Routt County Riders cycling advocacy group, and as such, they are a role model for any business looking to help this community grow and prosper," Craigen added.
Bike Town USA board member David Scully said it also was important to recognize what Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare has given back to the community.
The business has supported the Tour de Steamboat charity ride from the beginning. The 10th annual ride was held in July and attracted more than 700 riders.
Among its other contributions and sponsorships, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare annually sponsors the Town Challenge mountain biking and skiing races. The business also offers special pricing and ski tuning clinics for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes.
Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare also was instrumental in helping secure the $33,000 Bell Built grant to complete the Bear River Bike Park this fall.
"They were very proactive in getting the word out and getting the message out, and we won it, and it was amazing," Scully said.
A well-rounded leader
When Chris Tamucci's employees at Big Agnes learned he was being recognized as the Young Professional of the Year, their reaction was one of genuine excitement and pride.
"I couldn't ask for a better boss, honestly," Big Agnes warehouse logistics manager Alex Geller said. "He's really fair. He listens to our opinions and takes them into consideration."
Diego Girard originally hired Tamucci in 2005.
"Now, he's my boss," Girard said. "He's a fair boss and a friend, and most importantly, he's honest."
Tamucci came from humble beginnings at Big Agnes. After graduating with a master's degree in business administration, Tamucci moved from California to Steamboat with Laura, whom he later would marry. Tamucci had no job when he arrived, but he eventually was hired for part-time work in the warehouse.
"A job he was arguably overqualified for as an MBA graduate," Big Agnes co-owner Len Zanni said.
Tamucci worked his way up, first overseeing customer service, then working in sales and now serving as the company's director of operations.
"He has a great rapport with our staff members, external partners and vendors and truly leads his teams by example," Zanni said.
Bill Gamber, another co-owner, praised Tamucci for his ability to balance work, family and his love for the outdoors, specifically cycling and snowboarding.
"It's not easy to live in this town and do everything you want to do and to do it well," Gamber said.
Tamucci is committed to Steamboat and graduated from the Leadership Steamboat program in 2009.
Tamucci also finds time to give back to the community.
He serves on the Steamboat Chamber's marketing committee, the economic development committee and the Bike Town USA board. He also led the development of http://www.steamboatbiketown.com.
"We believe that Chris deserves to be recognized because of his work ethic, proven leadership skills and tireless personal promotion of Steamboat Springs," Zanni said. "I cannot think of a young professional more worthy of recognition."