Ed Miklus: Time for leadership
November 27, 2012
Let's talk about Whitefish — and no, not that tasty Jewish food delicacy. Whitefish is a small town, population 6,300 on 4.4 square miles, in northwestern Montana. So what's the big deal about Whitefish? Well, it has a ski mountain with 3,000 skiable acres, 2,353 vertical feet of terrain, a season pass that costs $580, and daily lift tickets that cost $67. But if you stay for a week, skiing will cost only $50 per day, and a ski-in, ski-out king hotel room will set you back $840 for the week.
More important, SKI Magazine ranks Whitefish ahead of Steamboat. Pretty neat, huh? So what does that tell us? Are we a resort going down instead of going up? Is our major economic engine sputtering and about to stall? What effect does our status as a resort have on business, commerce and our home values (see the Trailhead Lodge auction)?
So instead of standing around re-arranging deck chairs, here are a few suggestions, in priority order, that may help preserve our economic future and our viability as a community:
■ Change our form of city government to a mayoral system so we can engender at least a modicum of leadership in our community.
■ All disparate business/self-interest groups should fold their pup tents and join one big tent, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. There is strength and influence in numbers. The Chamber should then change its name to the Yampa Valley Chamber of Commerce with a concomitant revision of its mission statement to include all business and commercial interests in Routt County.
■ With the two above items in place, establish an on-site meeting with Intrawest's big mahufta, Bill Jensen. It would be nice to know what the elephant that's sitting on our living room couch plans to do.
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■ Invest in some MBA marketing whiz kids to reinvigorate our authentic unique Western brand and come up with some new, creative and innovative marketing strategies instead of pulling the same old stale, staid stuff off the shelf and hoping for a different result or deciding on the wonderfully brilliant idea of raising lift ticket prices in the middle of a lousy ski season. This also applies to the air service program/Local Marketing District. You know we're in trouble when at the LMD's recent open house, one of the board members said, "We're doing just fine." What?
■ Take a good, hard, objective look at our pricing structure. What do you think it costs for an East Coast family of four with a couple of teenagers to spend a ski week in Steamboat — $8,000 or more?
■ Refer to our visitors as guests. Inculcate the "guest philosophy" in all our resort employees. Initiate a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of our guests' experience from the time they arrive to the time they leave, be it by air, car or horse-drawn wagon. All who have any possibility of interacting with our guests should be part of the review: airport folks, shuttle drivers, merchants, police, resort staff — you get the idea.
Absent taking some bold aggressive actions, some of which are suggested above, to start to move us up the ladder of resort rankings instead of expressing satisfaction being in the top 15, we can always change our name to "Lox Springs" and hope for the best.