Our view: Reading the tea leaves with Alterra Mountain Co. | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Reading the tea leaves with Alterra Mountain Co.

It's no surprise to resident and destination skiers that the base of Steamboat Ski Area does not compare favorably to our competitive set, whether it is our new sibling resorts at Aspen and Deer Valley, or the base villages at competing Vail and Whistler/Blackcomb.

And Alterra Mountain Co. President and COO David Perry made it plain during his visit to Steamboat last week that he intends to do something about it.

"We will be investing capital in Steamboat," Perry said during his speaking engagement at the Airline Partners' Summit, "and we have lots of big projects to choose from."

Longtime Steamboat residents are aware that the arrival experience and pedestrian flow at the base of the ski area has improved since the completion in 2009 of One Steamboat Place. There is a wider promenade from the transit center that leads to the heated pavers in Gondola Plaza. And the expanded outdoor dining deck at Bear River Bar & Grill is far more appealing than it was in the past. Still, Perry recognizes that there remains much work to be done.

"We were here a month ago … looking at a lot of the options for where … to put in some capital. We’re looking hard at the base area to see how we can make improvements to the base area to bring it into a more modern age," Perry said at the Summit.

"There are a lot of stairs — a lot of nooks and crannies. I know it’s a very complex puzzle — the very base of Steamboat. … We're looking at a few other things. I can’t promise them today, but we will be investing capital in Steamboat. Your team is advocating very strongly for improvements here at Steamboat, and we will expend some capital here in (20)18 and (20)19."

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Perry also alluded to the fact that the refurbishing of the Steamboat gondola in 2017 was just the first phase of a two-phase upgrade, with more improvements to come.

Quite naturally, a local segment of the audience at the Airline Partners' Summit last week was eager to know the details of season pass pricing in the future. Alterra has made no secret that it intends to position its newly announced Ikon Pass to compete with Vail's Epic Pass. Members of the audience aptly pointed out last week that the pre-season price for a winter 2017/2018 unlimited ski pass to Steamboat and Winter Park was $1,149, compared to Vail's Epic pass offering unlimited access to 15 resorts for $859.

Attendees at the Summit wanted to know if that means a season pass to Steamboat will cost less next year than it did this season.

"Stay tuned for a couple more weeks," Perry urged.

We can imagine the arithmetic that needed to be done to structure the pricing for the Ikon Pass was complex; Aspen and Steamboat are both pure destination resorts, while Winter Park and other former Intrawest resorts, from Blue Mountain, Ontario to Snowshoe, West Virginia, have very different business models from Steamboat's. The same would be true of the luxury Deer Valley resort in Utah.

We're also encouraged that Perry made a point this week of saying his team will work closely with Rob Perlman, president and CEO of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., and his senior executives in deciding on priorities for capital investment here.

As Perry said, "stay tuned."

At issue: Alterra Mountain Co. President and COO David Perry publicly acknowledged capital needs at the ski area’s base and his company’s commitment to addressing them.

Our view: We’re encouraged that Alterra has acknowledged the urgency in modernizing the ski base at Steamboat Ski Area.

Editorial Board
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Tom Ross, reporter

• Hannah Hoffman, community representative

• Bob Schneider, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.