Book review: Former Steamboat ski exec writes about the snow biz
Steamboat Springs — “Ski Inc.” by Chris Diamond
I like books that teach me something. I’ve been naïve — an innocent enjoyer of the ski slopes — and if you had asked me a few weeks ago what running Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. was about I would have said grooming trails, running lifts and selling tickets.
I never really thought about how instruction, food, clothing, safety, skis, the rental business, travel, real estate, entertainment, shopping and politics contribute to the financial success of a major ski resort. Reading “Ski Inc.” changed that, and it is in that vein that I highly recommend Chris Diamond’s first book.
Diamond has written a part-memoir, part-history, part-business account of his pretty magnificent 40-year journey with the ski industry.
Diamond started his journey at Killington after a stint in Vietnam. It was a time of change in the ski resort business.
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Eastern resorts were learning how to make snow. Ski shapes and ski instruction were undergoing a revolution. Hotels and real estate became ways to attract skiers, and there was stiff competition among the growing eastern ski resorts for skiers.
But for me, what emerges from Diamond’s story is how a few influential characters shaped the growth of the industry.
“Ski Inc.” is peppered with Diamond’s stories of these people. He is kind, even when he wants to excoriate, and the stories are colorful, entertaining and insightful. I never knew these folks, but I feel I know them now.
Diamond came to Steamboat and Ski Corp. at a time of consolidation and turmoil in the industry, leaping into the fray of our own town-resort battle for which the Steamboat Grand was the fall guy. He recounts the history of the turmoil at ASC, the failed sale to the Muellers, the eventual transition to Intrawest and the rationale for the current business model of multi-resort corporations.
The last pages of “Ski Inc.” are worth the reading, because it’s here that Diamond reveals his lessons from running Ski Corp. He reflects on the role the resort plays in the life of the local community, and the role the local community plays in the success of the resort.
Diamond proposes a new business model, one where the community makes an equity investment in the resort. It’s a proposal that’s deserving of dialogue, if for no other reason than it’s put forward by a guy who has had a foot in both camps and cares about both.
Diamond will be welcoming friends and colleagues and readers at the launch of his book from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 at Off the Beaten Path. Come have him sign your copy.
This book is available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path.
Emily Katzman is assistant manager of Off the Beaten Path.
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