COVID-19 impacts reinforce Steamboat’s strong sense of community |

COVID-19 impacts reinforce Steamboat’s strong sense of community

Snow Bowl Steamboat Chef Pete List and his team were leaders in the early days of the pandemic in helping residents in need. (Photo by John F. Russell).

While Steamboat Springs buckled down during the pandemic like other towns across the country, it reinforced its strong sense of community and reasons why so many people love to call it home.

Businesses donated food, nonprofits offered support services and people donated masks and other personal protective equipment to those in need, from first responders to employees laid off from work.

“Our entire community has come together to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, from public health and economic impacts to schooling,” says Kara Stoller, Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO. “The examples of cooperative efforts to take care of everyone are endless.”

Examples include Snow Bowl Steamboat providing free meals through its Family Bowl program to support laid-off restaurant workers and ski industry employees. Businesses and locals donated nearly $50,000 for the effort, with more than 14 local food producers and restaurants chipping in. The 10-week program donated nearly 22,000 dinners to residents in need. “It was amazing the way the community showed up for each other in this time of need,” says Snow Bowl owner Meryl Meranski.

The program complemented a similar free meals project orchestrated by Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., which served more than 6,000 free meals.

“I am so proud of our team for coming together to find a way to support our coworkers, friends, and neighbors in need during this crisis,” says resort CEO Rob Perlman.

Steamboat retailer Ohana created a line of custom-designed masks for people. “We just wanted to help get them out to the community,” says co-owner Luke Dudley, who donated $5,000 from their mask sales to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Realtors and teachers also got aboard the altruistic bandwagon. The Steamboat Group created a “Soon Steamboat Will Be Back” video that garnered more than 20,000 views. “Steamboat’s a special community and we just wanted to put that message of hope out there,” says co-owner Jon Wade. “The community came together, which is what Steamboat does.” 

Steamboat K-5 physical education teacher Erin Early even donned a green Power Ranger costume to keep kids engaged during virtual classrooms. She also helped create a series of YouTube videos for kids to do workouts at home. “I got a lot of sweet emails from parents thanking me for helping their kids get outside and exercise,” Early says.

While the summer’s event season came to a halt, organizers were also quick to create virtual alternatives for the community. Seminars at Steamboat, which regularly draw 500 attendees to its public policy talks, hosted a series of virtual presentations, involving speakers and attendees from all over the world. “It was a great way to engage the community,” says Seminars Board Chairman Joella West.

Strings Music Festival, whose performances occur in its award-winning Strings Pavilion, hosted drive-in concerts and invested in augmented-reality technology to showcase performers. “We’re the first concert hall in the country to use it,” says marketing director Greg Hamilton. “It’s a great way to still offer programs for the community.”

Arts nonprofit Steamboat Creates also offered a virtual alternative for its popular First Friday Artwalk, a Cinema Steamboat drive-in film festival, and Depot Tracks, showcasing local songwriters and musicians.

“It’s amazing how the town came together during the COVID crisis and testament to what a great community we live in,” adds Stoller.  

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