Family Bowl program ends Sunday with over 20K meals served

Cars filled with teachers and students drove by the Snow Bowl Steamboat this week to thank the local business for its Family Bowl program and delivering a donation to support the effort.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Snow Bowl Steamboat began providing free meals through its Family Bowl program back on March 23, the focus was on helping support laid-off restaurant workers and ski industry employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel proud of the work that has come out of the kitchen and the meals that we were able to provide,” Snow Bowl owner Meryl Meranski said. “I’m surprised at how many meals we actually ended up handing out. We are grateful for the community and the restaurants that have contributed whether it was food or money or just offers for help.”

Now 10 weeks later, the westside business has provided more than 20,000 dinners to area residents. Meryl and her brother Joel Meranski said the Family Bowl project was a community effort inspired by their chef Pete List. Snow Bowl employees Sean Hengstler, Jon-Claude “JC” Stevens and Brandon Bailey also volunteered their time to prepare the food each night.

“All my guys have been fantastic, and what they did was very selfless,” List said. “So I’m very proud of their efforts and what Family Bowl accomplished.”

The Meranskis praised their staff but made it clear that Family Bowl became a true community effort with people donating more than $47,000 to a GoFundMe page to support the project and more than 14 different local food producers and restaurants donating food.

On Tuesday, fourth-graders from Strawberry Park Elementary School dropped off a $4,000 check that the Meranskis said carried the Family Bowl program through Thursday and then Colorado Group Reality sponsored meals on Friday and Saturday with the final Family Bowl event scheduled for Sunday.

“We’re working on what the transition of Family Bowl is going look like, and we don’t want it to die,” Meryl said. “It can’t die, because there’s still a need out there and so we want to see it go on. We’re just working to figure out what that’s going to be as businesses start to reopen, because we don’t want to take business away from restaurants.”

Fourth-grade students and teachers from Strawberry Park Elementary School organized a parade to deliver checks to local businesses and organizations that have supported the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, the students raised $24,000 and a portion of that money was donated to Snow Bowl’s Family Meal program.
John F. Russell

Snow Bowl is hoping to move back to its for-profit model by the middle of June, but Joel said he hopes they’ll be able to partner with a local nonprofit to provide some sort of a food voucher program for those in need.

In the meantime, Snow Bowl is planning to take a short break before opening up its front lawn area with a menu that features brisket, pork, ribs coleslaw and baked beans.

“So we have this container bar here, and what we’re imagining it will look like is people will walk up to the container bar, put in their order, get their drink and then be seated on our grass,” Meryl said.

Joel said Snow Bowl will not be opening up inside seating at this time, and they’re still waiting for direction from the state and Routt County on the status of bowling.

“So we are opening an outdoor barbecue,” Meryl said. “We don’t have any bowling information yet, and we will keep the community up to date as that happens. In the meantime, we have this amazing outdoor area and chef Pete is going to be cooking up this awesome barbecue menu in our two big giant smokers in the back.”

The Meranskis hope the need for free dinners will fade as the months go on and they were happy to help provide people with meals when they needed it the most.

“It’s been really incredible, and I think the coolest part has been the way that the community showed up for each other in this time of need,” Meryl said. “We did it out of the Snow Bowl Steamboat, but we needed everybody’s support.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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