Moving Mountains to help guests create enduring family memories | SteamboatToday.com

Moving Mountains to help guests create enduring family memories

Steamboat company grows from 44 to 75 luxury homes in 5 years

Moving Mountain's Gold Mine Tours Lodge comfortably seats a crowd for meals. The luxury home is a short walk from Thunderhead Express chairlift.

— The full-service ski vacation concept behind Robin and Heather Craigen’s Moving Mountains luxury vacation property management company has enjoyed so much success in the past five years that Robin Craigen wonders aloud if he could export the concept of a catered ski chalet to another ski area about 100 miles southeast of Steamboat Springs.

"Will we grow outside of Steamboat? I haven't settled on it, but we can only get and retain a certain number of people to come to Steamboat," company President and CEO Robin Craigen said, adding there may be "huge gaps in Vail/Beaver Creek," for people who want the kind of individualized attention guests at Moving Mountains enjoy.

Picture a multi-family, multi-million dollar vacation home that can include a private shopper and fully catered meals, freeing adults from the time-consuming task of keeping a mob of young cousins fed. Robin Craigen has a term for this luxury: the "time benefit of money."

"I am sometimes frankly amazed that people take ski vacations," he said. "It's only for the thrill of being on the mountain and wanting to create great memories for their families that people put themselves through the logistical challenges and the expense of getting here.”

The Moving Mountains chalet concept, which was recently featured on the Forbes website, relies on removing the logistical challenges inherent to ski vacations in order to free vacationers to pursue their passions.

For skiing families, or groups of families, who can afford to spend $3,000 or $4,000 per night for a spectacular vacation home, the concept can make economic sense. During periods of lower demand, there are chalets available for $1,000 to $1,200 (catering comes with an additional charge). During peak season however, there are homes that rent for between $7,000 and $10,000 per night.

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The levels of available service go beyond meal preparation (Heather Craigen is the catering director, as well as company vice president) and on-demand car service. Robin Craigen emphasizes to his staff that the company's name literally signifies a willingness on their part to move mountains in order to please the guest.

"You have to treat your team well and find the right people," he said. "Very specifically, we talk about every challenge being an opportunity. It's something we live daily. … When you're paying what some of our guests are paying, the expectations are super high."

So, the shuttle drivers are coached to ask guests, "Is everything the way you want it to be?" And if the answer is "not so much," then, "How can we fix that?"

If a guest comes down with an untimely chest cold, "We'll run some chicken soup over," Craigen said. "We want to find the little thing," that communicates Moving Mountains will go the extra mile to please its guests, Robin Craigen said.

Changing attitudes of luxury homeowners

In 2012, with the economy finally emerging from recession, Moving Mountains managed 44 luxury ski chalets and had a full-time staff of 12, plus 30 seasonal employees. Since then, the number of properties under Moving Mountains' management has grown to 75 properties, with a full-time staff of 15 and close 40 seasonal workers.

"It started small and grew," Robin Craigen said. "The big question is 'Where do we go from here?' We're not trying to be everything to everybody, and that's turned out to be a really good thing."

A factor in the expansion of Moving Mountains' roster of luxury rental homes is that the economic recession of 2009 led to a shift in the attitudes of second homeowners toward short-term rentals.

The vacation rental market in Steamboat Springs helped some affluent people continue to afford their homes in Steamboat. And as the economy has recovered, luxury homeowners have grown more comfortable with allowing strangers to enjoy their properties. The result is, instead of leaving the household dark when they are away, the property is transformed into an asset.

Because each of the properties Moving Mountains manages is someone's prized home, Craigen and his staff seek opportunities to encourage their owners to leave a little personal touch behind.

"My preference is to instruct owners to leave a family photo or two out," when they are away, Craigen said. "It invites a different level of respect and care for the home."

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