Group of ‘moms on a mission’ key to make Steamboat Resort’s new child care center happen

New employer-based center hopes to show companies that they can tackle community level issues

The chairs are ready for youngsters to take a seat at Steamboat Ski Resort's new employer-based child care facility in Steamboat, which opens on Monday, Dec. 19.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The August 2021 closure of Little Lambs in Phippsburg left Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. communications manager Maren Franciosi and dozens of other families scrambling to find care in a place so void of options experts liken it to a desert.

The “devastating” email that delivered the news put the prospects of raising a child in the Yampa Valley at risk.

“Something had to give,” Franciosi said. “There had to be a solution.”

On Monday, Dec. 19, Franciosi’s son will be one for the first students at Steamboat Ski Resort’s new employer-based child care center — an effort that would not have happened without a key group of “moms on a mission.”

“This is a critical need for our resort, for our community and for all of Northwest Colorado,” said Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman at a celebration in the new center on Friday, Dec. 16. “This facility is going to be tremendous… not only for our staff, but for our community.”

The center doesn’t replace all 40 spots lost when Little Lambs closed, and it doesn’t allow officials to drop the word “crisis” from their vernacular when talking about child care in the Yampa Valley.

However, it does add 30 much needed early childhood education slots when every spot matters, extends a benefit to resort employees that could open up spots elsewhere in town and even offers a handful of child care spots to the broader community.

But perhaps most significantly, the new center shows that large employers like Steamboat Resort can tackle community level issues.

Nicole Riehl, president and CEO of Colorado Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, or EPIC, helped the resort to put together the child care facility. She said she hopes others could duplicate the resort’s effort.

“We know that other employers are watching, other communities are watching” Riehl said. “Kudos to Steamboat Ski Resort for the amazing, hard work that you’ve put in here. We know that you are living into your values by doing this.”

In a video played on Friday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said people are dropping out of the workforce to care for their children and steps like this are important for the state as a whole.

“With this facility, you are supporting our workforce and our community,” Polis said in the video. “Steamboat has created a model for the tourism and hospitality industry and we hope many others will follow.”

Riehl specifically called out Loryn Duke and Morgan Bast, directors of communication and marketing for Ski Corp., respectively, for their work to stand up the center, referring to them as “moms on a mission.”

“They were moms on a mission to really solve this challenge, not just for themselves, but for all of their colleagues and their community members,” Riehl said.

The center has two playgrounds with views of the Yampa River, a nursing room and an infant room that will eventually serve up to eight students. It also has a kitchen that will be used to serve lunches brought by parents.

The building, which is near the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Walton Creek Road, used to be home to UCHealth offices. With some tweaks here and there, the facility now has four different rooms that can accommodate children from infants to preschool. “The bones were so perfectly set up for what we needed, and we just had to reconfigure a few things,” Duke said. “It’s exciting.”

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