Changing of the guard at Sheraton |

Changing of the guard at Sheraton

Chuck Porter steps down from top post

Blythe Terrell
Chuck Porter has retired after 19 years as general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Replacing him will be John Curnow.
John F. Russell

Curnow fills position

John Curnow isn't exactly a Steamboat Springs newcomer.

Curnow, who replaces Chuck Porter as general manager at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, was director of sales and marketing at the hotel from 1996 to 1999. Curnow then went to Aspen, where he was director of sales and marketing at the St. Regis Aspen and, most recently, general manager at the Sky Hotel.

"I've always loved the Steamboat community," Curnow said. "I've always felt at home here. It was always my goal to go get additional experiences and then to come home here."

Curnow grew up in Virginia and studied hotel and restaurant management at Virginia Tech University. He has two children and is engaged to be married.

Curnow is leading a different Sheraton from the one Porter managed last ski season. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide bought the property last year. The hotel completed a $20 million renovation, adding time-share units and eliminating hotel rooms. About 21 time-share units are available, and Curnow said those visitors would receive the same treatment as hotel guests.

Curnow said he wants to improve service at the Sheraton.

"I think we can do a better job and will do a better job of bringing the local community into the hotel," he said. "It's a big goal of mine to make the Sheraton that place in Steamboat where events happen, where you come to dine, and where you recommend to family and friends to stay when they come in town."

Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Chamber Resort Association, said she worked with Curnow during his previous stint at the Sheraton.

"I look forward to getting to know him and seeing his management style," Evans Hall said.

Curnow started Nov. 3. Porter is helping him with the transition, and Curnow said he was happy to have his input.

"Chuck has always been a friend and a peer of mine, and it's daunting to me, too, to step into his shoes," Curnow said. "But I appreciate his friendship and his guidance always, and I look forward to working with him in whatever capacity as I can."

— A Sheraton employee walked up to Chuck Porter as he waited to order at the hotel Starbucks last week.

He smiled and addressed her by name, and they chatted briefly. He asked her how she liked her new department. Pretty well, she told him, outlining the ups and downs.

Then she wished him luck and told him she was going to miss his smiling face.

After 19 years, Porter is stepping down as general manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. A new owner took over last year, and the makeup of the hotel has changed. Porter decided it was time to switch things up.

“I thought about it last winter, and there just was a revelation that it was time,” he said. “I didn’t sit there and draw it out in the ledger, say here’s the pluses, here’s the minuses. I just figured it out instinctively.”

That’s not surprising, given how Porter got here.

The Colorado Springs native was working in Florida when he decided he missed Colorado. He packed his car and moved to Steamboat Springs in 1979.

Porter’s background was in hotels, and he gravitated to the Sheraton, starting as banquet manager in 1980. In his next role, as a property manager for Thunderhead Lodge, Ski Time Square and other sites, Porter met Sandy Evans Hall. At the time, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association executive vice president was managing the restaurant in Thunderhead.

Porter changed positions a couple of times before becoming the Sheraton’s general manager in 1989, but Evans Hall and Porter have worked together steadily. Porter is treasurer of the local marketing district and has been on the Chamber board of directors for more than a decade, Evans Hall said.

“We’ve had, I think, a great relationship over the 25 years that we’ve known each other, and it has always been very honest and direct, and we’ve accomplished a lot of things,” Evans Hall said.

Porter said he never put a timeline on the general manager position.

“When I first started this, 20 years seemed like an eternity,” he said. “And then one day, it’s here.”

Looking back

Porter has watched the evolution of the base area throughout nearly three decades.

“I think it’s exciting,” he said. “You know, the changes come incrementally, and even though the recent couple of years there seems to be a lot of comments and attention on how the base area is changing. When I look back, even in the early ’80s, there was a lot going on.”

For example, Torian Plum Plaza was built and roads were added, Porter said. After a lull, construction picked up again. The gondola and the Steamboat Grand arrived, he said. Now, it’s One Steamboat Place.

That growth spurs Porter to stay involved. He has been chairman of the lodging committee and serves on the Urban Redevelopment Area Advisory Commission.

“One of my goals and the (reason) I want to stay involved with URAAC is to stitch this all together,” Porter said, adding that he wants to help make sure the base area serves pedestrians effectively.

The town will continue to grow, he predicted.

“Really the most dramatic change has been the demolition of Thunderhead Lodge and Ski Time Square,” Porter said. “We all knew it would happen, but it was still dramatic to see it actually done.”

Tom Sharp, who has been the Sheraton’s local attorney since the late ’70s, has worked with Porter through all those changes.

“Chuck’s been very involved in efforts for almost all of those 20-some years to improve the desirability of those businesses at the base of the Ski Area,” Sharp said.

Looking forward

Changes have arrived within the Sheraton, too. Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide bought the hotel and its golf course last year.

The company finished a $20 million renovation last week, redesigning the lobby and adding a time-share component.

John Curnow, who was director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort from 1996 to 1999, replaced Porter on Nov. 3. The outgoing general manager is sticking around to help with the transition, however.

“I’m very sorry to see him leave the management,” Sharp said, “but I know that he is interested in moving on to other directions.”

Porter plans to stay in Steamboat with his wife, Maria, and work on projects for one of the Sheraton’s former owners. Ski Time Square Enterprises, which was made up of six individuals, previously owned the hotel.

Porter said he had maintained a good relationship with those partners.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “The hotel business is one that if you have the desire and stamina, it does offer opportunities for working your way up. Often in this business, people transfer to move up. I’ve been able to stay here and move up.”

Sharp attributed Porter’s success to a couple of characteristics.

“One, he listens very well to the input from his staff and his ownership group, and so he’s very thoughtful and deliberative,” Sharp said. “And then he is not afraid to make those decisions that have to be made to manage an ongoing hotel enterprise.”

Not all business

Although Porter said the Sheraton would remain on his mind – “I’ll still worry about it because I want the hotel to be successful, and I want Steamboat to be successful” – he said he plans to let it go.

It’ll be tough getting used to sleeping in on Christmas and New Year’s Day, big days at the hotel, he said.

“You’re always conscious that the hotel is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Porter noted.

He also spoke seriously about the town’s economic fears, saying it was impossible to predict what lies ahead for any season – even after more than 19 years of careful attention. Porter delivered his assessments and reflections deliberately. He put off a warm, intellectual vibe, carrying himself as a man at peace.

But there’s a twinkle in his eye, and Evans Hall has seen it.

“He always seemed so conservative, and a lot of that is because he is fairly quiet about his personal life and things like that,” she said. “But to see him strap on a helmet and get out on a motorcycle, things like that, I would say, ‘Chuck, is that you?’ : It was always fun to see that there’s a really fun, adventurous side to Chuck Porter that people don’t know about.”

And when you find him in that state, Evans Hall said, he’s anything but serious.

“He giggles like a little boy almost,” she said. “He’s so cute about it.”

– To reach Blythe Terrell, cal 871-4234 or e-mail

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