Our View: We must manage Steamboat as a destination city

Destination management is a tricky, multi-dimensional puzzle, and we hope city and county officials will put taxpayer money behind an effort to study it, because we all want to thread that needle. This is our home, and we must address the issue head-on, as how we manage Steamboat as a destination city will be make or break for us as a community. What feels like an impossible balance must be found, shaped and curated in a way that serves all of Steamboat and Routt County, including not just the business community and our guests but all our residents. Having good information will only help in making these decisions.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber has asked the city and Routt County for funding and support to design a countywide master plan outlining the future of destination management. During a joint city-county meeting Monday, Jan. 31, Chamber CEO Kara Stoller did not list a specific price or commitment for the project, but she said the chamber is asking for a consultant to take 10-12 months to study the county and assess its needs for destination management.

Sometimes, as residents, it feels like we’re being asked to choose between our home and our economy. Too many times we roll our eyes when we hear words like “destination management,” but it’s more than just marketing jargon. Destination management has been described as “the intersection of social, economic and environmental stewardship.” That’s why we want to encourage city and county officials to support the study, as it could help the community make more informed marketing decisions.

On one hand, we have a lot of nice things in Steamboat. The festivals, hospitality and recreational opportunities are plentiful enough that Steamboat is the envy of many small towns. Supported by a substantial sales tax base, our amenities punch far above Steamboat’s population. Most places our size simply can’t offer the same perks.

But it comes at a cost. Looking around resort destinations across the Rocky Mountains, we all are feeling the weight of problem-child parking, emptied store shelves and a busyness that’s, quite frankly, bad for business. For anyone on the lookout, it’s easy to find disruptions to life around every corner.

Some of the causes are obvious. Many of the reasons travelers want to come to Steamboat are the same reasons why we live here. Winter or summer, few places on earth even come close. We have a real, small town atmosphere with an old-school character rooted in Western culture. We are situated at the foot of world-class ski resort, and our summers make us an outdoor mecca.

Still, it is possible to love something too much. We’re seeing it across Colorado and here in Routt County. A huge part of the economy is tourism, but that plays into many of the biggest issues we face. The short-term rental debate, event fatigue, the worker shortage, the high cost of housing, all of these are directly affected by marketing.

So how do we find that balance? It’s a real head-scratcher. Steamboat benefits greatly by being a world-famous destination, but the city and its residents are often burdened by the popularity. Talk about a double-edged snowboard.

That’s why we see merit in this study, not just for Steamboat, but the county as a whole. Having independent experts who are well versed in destination management could easily help community leaders in Hayden, Oak Creek and Routt County make some of their decisions as well.

Regardless of anyone’s feelings about marketing efforts past or present, we think it’s important that we approach this discussion as a community intentionally, openly and honestly. Marketing has been a divisive issue in the past, but we don’t think it needs to be. With good information, we can have hard conversations about destination management and what we want our community to be.

At a glance

At issue: The Steamboat Springs Chamber is seeking the city’s and county’s support designing a countywide master plan for destination management.

Our View: How we manage Steamboat and Routt County as a destination location is so important that the city and county should back the effort.

Editorial Board

• Bonnie Stewart, publisher

• Eli Pace, editor

• Cuyler Meade, assistant editor

• Ana Gomez, community representative

• Kelly McElfish, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or

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