No vacancy |

No vacancy

Ramada a popular place

— Marlito Freire speaks Portuguese and English fluently, but he’s just getting started with his Russian.

A native of Brazil, Freire is the general resort manager of Ramada Vacation Suites in Steamboat Springs. That explains his ability to speak Portuguese and English. Speaking a smattering of Russian became a necessity just this year.

“Ninety-five percent of my housekeepers are Russian,” Freire said. “I have to speak it a little bit.”

Freire’s job requires him to oversee 120 timeshare units split evenly between the Ramada Hilltop and the Ramada Pine Grove.

Among Freire’s 55 busy employees this winter are 16 housekeepers from Russia who were among the busiest in town this winter as the “no vacancy” sign seemed to be perpetually lit up.

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“There were only a few nights when we had several empty rooms,” Freire said.

Both the Ramada Hilltop and the Ramada Pine Grove are among Steamboat’s oldest resort lodging properties the Hilltop was built in 1969, and the Pine Grove was operated as long-term apartments in the late 1970s, when Pine Grove Road was still an unpaved street. But visitors wouldn’t guess the age of the units, which are beautifully decorated and fastidiously kept up. Both properties are situated between Old Town Steamboat and the ski mountain.

Ramada Vacation Suites is actually a brand name used by a company called Preferred Equity Corp, which operates eight “vacation ownership” resorts in the United States, Freire said. The company has been in the timeshare business since 1978, but now prefers the term “vacation ownership” to timeshare. Its customers own a one-week vacation and are free to swap from among resorts in Las Vegas; Reno, Nev.; Honolulu; Brigantine, N.J.; Indian Shores, Fla.; and Orlando, Fla. In addition, they can vacation at resorts all over the world through Preferred Equity’s affiliation with Resort Condominiums International.

Freire said his company has done well since it entered the local market.

“We opened Pine Grove five years ago and it’s 90 percent sold,” Freire said. “Hilltop is three years old and it’s getting up there.”

Freire said the Hilltop property is more than 60 percent sold.

It was three years ago that the owners remodeled the Hilltop property to convert the old standard hotel rooms into two-bedroom condos with full kitchens.

Decorated by Pam Kirk Interiors in Steamboat, the units are set off by wallpaper borders at the top of the walls and handsome log-style dining chairs.

“Our rooms are very desirable, so it’s not hard to fill,” Freire said. “We are very middle range. I’ve visited the Steamboat Grand. The Grand is gorgeous we’re not the Grand.”

Freire said unlike most winter visitors to Steamboat, the majority of his guests arrive by car. Many come from Colorado’s Front Range and many more come from Texas.

Ramada Vacation Suites Eastern Regional Manager Trent Van Buskirk said it is difficult for him to discuss the cost of a one-week vacation ownership because they vary with the season purchased by the owners. However, he said the average cost is about $15,000. Purchasers own deeded property in the form of a one-week share of the entire property, Van Buskirk said.

The open room rate for one night at the Hilltop also varies seasonally, but it currently is $185.

As the ski season wound down this week, Freire said he had guests from several countries including South Africa and Great Britain. But did any of the late season skiers hail from Russia? Nyet.

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