2020 Navigator: Snow Bowl pivots to support community in COVID-19 era | SteamboatToday.com

2020 Navigator: Snow Bowl pivots to support community in COVID-19 era

The Snow Bowl Steamboat crew, from left to right: Tony Counts, Joel Meranski, Brandon Bailey, Pete List, Sean Hengstler and Jon-Claude "JC" Stevens.
Dylan Anderson

Snow Bowl Steamboat in March was getting ready to celebrate a year since they had completely remodeled the only bowling center in Routt County.

The COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. 

State orders forced Snow Bowl and other local restaurants to close their doors to the public. They were forced to let much of their staff go temporarily.

Faced with shelves full of food and a lot of empty chairs, the crew at Snow Bowl got an idea.

“We got shut down on the 17th (of March). We had a lot of things left over that we needed to do something with, why not feed people with it,” said Pete List, chef and general manager at Snow Bowl.

Meryl Meranski and her brother Joel, who are both part of Snow Bowl’s ownership group, grew up in Steamboat and wanted to give back to the community in a time of need.

If you go

What: 2020 Navigator Awards Drive-in Celebration
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21
Where: Meadows Parking Lot, 1165 Bangtail Way in Steamboat Springs
Tickets: $30 per person, includes a charcuterie box by Laura the Butcher and two drinks

“We had all this extra inventory that we were going to have to throw away anyway, so we decided, let’s use it and start to feed the town,” said Meryl Meranski. “It became much larger than any of us imagined.”

They had seen other efforts to feed people, sometimes providing boxes of a week worth of food. But at Snow Bowl, they decided individual meals each day was what the community needed.

The Family Bowl initiative served nearly 22,000 meals to service industry workers and community members over 86 days. The meals were not just a brown bag lunch either.

“We would do a barbeque once a week, stromboli from scratch, we ran the gamut of pastas, lasagna,” List said. “Everything came with a side and a salad. We tried to make it as healthy and nutritional as possible.”

Read more

Read about all the 2020 Navigator Award winners:
Snow Bowl Steamboat, Business of the Year
Soniya Fidler, Business Person of the Year
Irene Avitia, Young Professional of the Year

The effort was bolstered by donations of food and money from local businesses and residents. A Go Fund Me campaign launched by Snow Bowl to support the effort had a goal of raising $2,000 to get them through a couple weeks. It raised over $40,000. 

Some Businesses pitched in to sponsor entire nights of Family Bowl, providing money for all the food. List and his crew would make about 300 meals each day in the Snow Bowl kitchen.

“What started as this little mission out of Snow Bowl ended up being a whole community effort to make sure people are fed,” said Meryl Meranski.

List was the only one being paid for his efforts, the rest of the Family Bowl crew donated their time, seven days a week for 86 days from March 23 to June 7.

“We had people from all walks of life showing up,” said Corey Wagner, part of the Snow Bowl ownership group. “People who you could tell were in need.”

The Family Bowl crew received a lot of thank you cards and even some tips while they served meals. List and some other cooks even got a drawing from a young girl thanking them. That drawing is now tattooed on their ankles above the number of total meals served. 

“It will be with us forever,” List said. “21,688. It is in Roman Numerals.”

On June 24, they transitioned back to their for-profit model, serving a barbeque menu on the front lawn. The familiar crashing sound of bowling balls rolling in for a strike returned in mid-July.

Tony Counts, a manager at Snow Bowl, said he told his mom that when Family Bowl ended, it was both “fulfilling and sad.”

“I saw families come every day, which needed the help and we provided that,” Counts said. “When that stopped, that was the sad part because those people still needed help.”

While the daily meals may have stopped, Family Bowl is not over. Snow Bowl is working with the United Way to serve between 400 and 500 Thanksgiving dinners to go. There are also plans in the works to provide meals on Christmas.

Now, Snow Bowl is open for business, allowing indoor dining and plenty of bowling — within COVID-19 guidelines.

“The prior business model for every restaurant was pack as many people into as small of space as possible and now that just isn’t the right way to do it when you are trying to think of the health and safety of your employees as well as your guests,” Wagner said. 

Snow Bowl is taking appropriate precautions, requiring masks when not sitting at a table and while bowling. Counts isn’t shy about reminding people to put on their mask. Counts also isn’t shy about talking up Snow Bowl and now he has some hardware to back it up. 

Past Navigator Award winners

Business Person of the Year: 1999, Julie Green; 2000, Rod Hanna; 2001, Mike Lomas; 2002, Andy Wirth; 2003, Scott Ford; 2004, Steve Dawes; 2005, John Kerst; 2006, Chris Diamond; 2007, David Baldinger Jr.; 2008, Rex Brice; 2009, Chuck Porter; 2010, David Nagel; 2011, Grant Fenton; 2012, Karl Gills; 2013, Jim Schneider; 2014, Ed MacArthur; 2015, Bob Dapper; 2016, Scott Marr; 2017, Adonna Allen ; 2018, Mark Walker; 2019, Cole Hewitt

Young Professional of the Year: 2009, Stacy Huffman; 2010, Ryan Marsden; 2011, Sara Ferris; 2012, Stephany Traylor; 2013, Chris Tamucci; 2014, Sarah Fox; 2015, Glen Traylor; 2016, Nick Sharp; 2017, Tara Weaver; 2018, Jason Peasley; 2019, Kerry Shea

Business of the Year: 1999, TIC; 2000, Native Excavating; 2001, Ore House at the Pine Grove; 2002, SmartWool; 2003, Ski Haus; 2004, PostNet; 2005, F.M. Light & Sons; 2006, Off the Beaten Path bookstore; 2007, Prudential Steamboat Realty; 2008, Christy Sports; 2009, BAP!; 2010, Yampa Valley Bank; 2011, Alpine Bank; 2012, Colorado Mountain College; 2013, Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare; 2014, Yampa Valley Medical Center; 2015, Rex’s Family of Restaurants; 2016, Chief Theater; 2017, Steamboat Springs Arts Council; 2018, Freshies; 2019, Mountain Tap Brewery

Service Excellence Professional of the Year: 2017, Barbara Robinson; 2018, Jason and Kelly Landers; 2019, Michael Guerrero

“We got the best chef in Steamboat and I’d put that up against anyone, anytime,” Counts said. “We are a great restaurant with some bowling inside.”

He says they have regulars that come in to show their appreciation for Snow Bowl and what they did to step up to in Steamboat’s time of need. He feels a place like Snow Bowl is something the community deserves. Over his 20 years of living in Steamboat, Counts has developed a unique view of town. 

“We are a bowling town, with a ski problem.”

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