Sen. Cory Gardner holds economic roundtable with business leaders in Steamboat Springs |

Sen. Cory Gardner holds economic roundtable with business leaders in Steamboat Springs

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Business leaders and elected officials in Steamboat Springs had the ear of a United States senator for about an hour Friday at Colorado Mountain College.

Business leaders asked Cory Gardner for help on rising health insurance premiums that have stung residents in Northwest Colorado.

And Rob Perlman, the president and CEO of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., wondered where the senator stood on immigration reform at a time the ski area is struggling to hire workers from both the United States and abroad, in a county with just 2 percent unemployment.

Gardner responded that he thinks it would be helpful to lift a recent cap on the number of H2-B visas that are allowed into the country.

Skiers and riders have recently felt some of the impacts of the ski area's staffing challenges.

Asked about the recent closure of a lift on days it would normally be running, the resort said when the flu and other bugs led to several lift workers calling in sick in early January, the ski area did not have enough employees to cover the shifts.

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As a result, the Bar UE lift did not run Jan. 9 and 15.

Sen. Gardner also touched on other aspects of Steamboat's ski industry.

He said he thought fees generated from the ski area's use of the Routt National Forest ought to stay in the Routt National Forest.

"That money ought to be coming back here to expand," he said, noting ski resorts are also investing in summer amenities.

There were also discussions about how to make the process of evaluating ski area expansion plans more timely and efficient.

Gardner also talked about the Trump administration's infrastructure plan.

The senator said he was waiting for details.

"We have a 30-second soundbite from the president in his speech and a six page memo," Gardner said.

"There's lots of information we have to get," Gardner said.

About 16 people attended the economic roundtable with Gardner.

Local business leaders urged the senator to keep rural Colorado and Northwest Colorado in mind on a number of issues.

Other topics included rural broadband infrastructure and the recently passed tax bill.

"The tax bill is starting to show some good results," Gardner said, adding he thinks it has led to more investments being made in Colorado and across the country.