Full steam ahead: Steamboat Resort leadership presents goals for the future, plans for the present
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the Wild Blue Gondola will begin construction next summer.
After a season full of uncertainty and changes due to COVID-19, Steamboat Resort is set to open in less than two months and welcome back guests to a more normal environment than that of 2020.
“It’s full steam ahead, as we’ve been saying,” said Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman. “We’re already an incredible resort, and we’re just talking about taking things to that next level.”
Perlman and Ski Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Dave Hunter unveiled a list of goals for the resort’s future, as well as changes guests can expect for the 2021-22 ski season during a presentation they made to Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday. The resort has been undergoing a major construction project this spring and summer with a total planned investment of about $200 million over the next three years.
Perlman detailed the construction of the new Steamboat Square, a revitalization of the base area that will include an ice skating rink in the winter, lawn games in the summer and provide new space for concerts, music festivals and arts events.
To lead guests into the square, the resort plans to redo the Gondola Transit Center, adding an escalator that will connect guests from entrance areas at the center to the heart of the base.
“We recognize that we haven’t made improvements or investments in the base area for a long time,” Perlman said. “We want to create that sense of place in the heart of Gondola Square.”
Hunter presented several on-mountain updates, most notably the Wild Blue Gondola, which will begin construction next summer, as the longest and fastest 10-passenger gondola in North America, moving skiers and riders from the base to the top of the mountain in one trip. The gondola will also connect the new Greenhorn Ranch, where beginner skiers and riders will take lessons at midstation, to intermediate terrain at Sunshine Peak.
“It’s a world-class learning facility,” Hunter said of the Greenhorn Ranch. “What makes it very unique is it frees and liberates the base area, but we’ve been very mindful about the way this terrain is shaped, so it’s progression based.”
Ski Corp. also has acquired 650 acres of advanced and expert terrain in the Fish Creek Canyon area, which will open for the 2023-24 season.
As the resort continues to expand and add more amenities, Perlman and Hunter said each decision is made with several key factors in mind — sustainability, keeping Steamboat’s brand and honoring the community’s Western heritage.
“We’re keeping in mind the special place in the environment that we have and that we operate in,” Perlman said. “Everything is about sustainability.”
Toward this goal, each new building is LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified, meaning it has achieved a globally recognized standard of sustainability. The resort also makes sure 80% of the snow made from the Yampa River flows back into the river.
“We understand the Yampa River is a huge part of our life and our lifestyle here in the Yampa Valley,” Perlman said. “The agricultural community is very thankful that we make snow and then they get to enjoy those water flows later in the spring when it melts and goes back into the system.”
In response to Ski Corp.’s presentation, council members said they were pleased with the resort’s plans, but they raised concerns about transit, parking, affordable housing and options at the resort for those who do not ski.
“You’re impressing us all with these numbers, but how much of that can be earmarked to say, ‘We’re going to spend this much on housing?’” asked council member Michael Buccino.
In response, Perlman said Ski Corp. spent $300,000 this year on improving The Ponds, Ski Corp.’s employee housing apartment complex. He also noted that Alterra Mountain Co., Steamboat Resort’s parent company, has also pledged to spend $5 million a year on affordable housing spread across its 15 resorts.
“I think we’ve illustrated that we’re pretty good about getting access to capital from Alterra Mountain Co.,” Perlman said. “We’ll be the first ones with our hands up.”
Perlman also said he hopes to continue a relationship with the city and Routt County to move forward on creating a regional transit authority.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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