Hotel seeks noise exemption for steam whistle sound at base of ski area
March 29, 2016
The sound of a loud steam whistle could soon fill the base of the Steamboat Ski Area for a short time each day.
The noise wouldn't mark lunchtime in a factory or even the start of après drinks.
Instead, it would aim to become a notable tradition for one of the resorts in the area.
Starwood Hotels executives recently issued the Sheraton Steamboat Resort a unique challenge: Create a new tradition worthy of joining other unique hotel traditions, which include ducks marching through a lobby every day in Memphis and champagne sabering in Aspen.
Sheraton is answering the call with a plan to sound the whistle — which mimics the sound of a steamboat whistle — every day at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area.
"It is going to be a compressed air whistle with a deep, throaty, Delta Queen sound," Sheraton General Manager Dan Pirrallo said.
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French fur trappers who were here in the early 1800s reportedly mistook the sounds of a local mineral spring as a steamboat engine.
It is thought this is how the city eventually got its name.
The timing that the whistle would sound at the base of the ski area is still to be determined, but they would likely occur near the end of the ski day.
Immediately after the whistle sounds each day, Pirrallo said a Sheraton staff member or a local speaker will be present at the base area to tell a historic story about Steamboat or share an interesting fact about the town's founding.
The person will be deemed, "the captain of the boat."
"I didn't want to do something that didn't have historic significance in our community," Pirrallo said.
He said the hotel consulted with the Tread of Pioneers Museum to come up with a tradition that has historic significance.
Before the sound of a steamboat whistle can fill Gondola Square, however, the Sheraton must first get city approval.
But, the city currently doesn't have a process by which a business can apply for a recurring exemption to the city's noise ordinance.
So, on Tuesday, the City Council will consider approving such a process.
It would then be up to the city and council to consider allowing the whistle noise.
If approved, Pirrallo said the whistle, which he estimates will cost upward of $25,000, would be installed at the top of the Bear River Bar & Grill.
Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the Sheraton has been encouraged to reach out to its neighbors to discuss the proposal.
Pirrallo said he was glad to have the support of Steamboat Ski Area.
Recurring whistles aren't new to Steamboat.
The noon whistle, which sounded an emergency siren each day at noon in downtown Steamboat, was removed in 2008 due to concerns about the stability of the wooden perch the whistle was on.
In 2010, a new noon whistle was introduced on the city's Parks and Community Services building on Howelsen Parkway.
However, the whistle isn't as loud as it used to be.
Gibbs said it can only be heard downtown when the atmospheric conditions are just right.