New grassroots effort aims to save Steamboat’s ski season
Lodging companies come together after recent virus surge to prevent local closures, tighter restrictions
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The recent spread of COVID-19 in the community has prompted Robin Craigen and other members of the lodging community to start a new campaign aimed at saving the Steamboat Springs ski season and stopping the spread.
“I spent a lot of the weekend getting really concerned about where we’re at, because I heard commissioners using words like dire and emergency,” said Craigen who is the owner and operator of Moving Mountains, a luxury vacation rental management company with offices in Steamboat and Vail. “I think that we’re beyond sugarcoating where we’re at with the pandemic, and this is a clear and present danger to the ski season,”
Craigen has joined Sarah Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co., to form SOS — Save Our Season, Stop Our Spread — an initiative aimed at raising awareness that the recent outbreaks have created an emergency and if the community does not act now and business activity is restricted or halted, the local economy is at risk.
The idea behind the effort is to collectively work together to prevent closure or restriction of winter tourism by helping to quickly reduce the number of people being infected with COVID-19. Craigen said the Steamboat Springs Chamber, Steamboat Springs School District, Main Street Steamboat Springs and the Community Agriculture Alliance have already reached out to him to support SOS. He also has been in contact with the Winter Park Chamber and is optimistic SOS will be adopted by other Colorado ski resorts.
The group has created a saveourseason.org website and has set up a GoFundMe to raise money to help fund the effort. The fundraising goal was set at $5,000, and by Thursday afternoon, the donation total had already reached $2,285.
“It’s great to see various members of our community step up and acknowledge the dire situation that we’re in and bring forward various ways to communicate that,” Chamber CEO Kara Stoller said. “The data has shown that the large part of the spread is happening in those private settings. The business community has done a tremendous job at putting into place mitigation efforts over the last seven months to ensure the health and safety of their customers. This really is about what we’re doing as individuals, and the unfortunate part of it is that the repercussions come down on businesses.”
Craigen is turning to the community at large and asking everyone who lives in Steamboat and Routt County to change social behavior and reduce close contacts, which would reduce the probability of community transmission.
“It’s sort of ironic that the businesses are the ones that will be shut down as a means to regulate this, when in fact it’s our local community that needs to be responsible and to change the way we interact with people,” Craigen said. “If you’re going to go for coffee, it has to be somebody in your household, and if you’re going out for dinner — I’m not saying don’t go to restaurants to eat — I’m saying that if you go to a restaurant, it needs to be with your family.”
The campaign will launch this month offering stickers, window clings and a banner to be placed across Lincoln Avenue.
“It’s like joining a movement,” Craigen said. “I’m hoping that when you put a sticker on your water bottle or on your bumper that you’re spreading the message around the community that we can do this and that we can come together and save our season and stop our spread.”
He also is asking people to limit Thanksgiving dinner to a single household and hold off on hosting parties until the pandemic is contained. He said going out with friends or having those holiday parties with friends may seem safe, but those gatherings increase the chance of spreading the virus throughout the community and bringing more restrictions from government agencies.
“People have not connected the dots. I can speak to this personally, because this has been my journey, and I’ve been very close to this and very supportive of everything that has been out there to try and keep business open,” Craigen said. “I think what isn’t connecting is that our social circles have continued. People need to understand that anytime you spend more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of somebody, whether you wear a mask or not, you just became their close contact.”
Craigen said recent outbreaks have not been traced to tourists but to locals hosting large gatherings. He said the best way to keep businesses open is to bring down the numbers.
“The reservations have been really encouraging, so many people have gotten comfortable with the new world that we live in,” Craigen said. “People are willing to get on airplanes and come and spend money, and that is the revenue that’s going to keep this community alive.”
Craigen wants the SOS campaign to be a reminder that the best way to come together as a community at this time is to stay apart.
“When we start talking about businesses closing, it is still really hard to get your head around that,” Stoller said. “But when you talk about your friends losing their job and being really concerned about putting food on the table and losing their health insurance, it’s all of those things that we are really trying to protect, and we need everybody’s help.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.