Tourism is Steamboat’s ‘bacon and eggs’
At issue: Some locals increasingly feel that the growing number of summer events is detracting from the Steamboat experience, for tourists and residents, alike
Our view: Tourism is the lifeblood of our community, and without it, many of the amenities we have come to expect would not be possibleEditorial Board • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher • Lisa Schlichtman, editor • Jim Patterson, evening editor • Tom Ross, reporter • Beth Melton, community representative • Paul Weiss, community representative Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.
Once, there was a small town in South Arkansas whose entire economy was based on a single industry, a paper mill that employed more than 1,000 workers directly and supported a large number of ancillary employers, as well. The mill paid its workers generous salaries and provided them with benefits packages that would make almost anyone green with envy.
At the same time, however, the mill’s triumvirate of towering exhaust stacks spent 24-hours-per-day, seven-days-per-week belching out a concoction of thick, white smoke and steam that bathed the town — and particularly, the neighborhoods surrounding the mill — in an aroma that could politely be described as unpleasant.
One day — an especially pungent day for mill operations — a boy complained to his father, who had been employed at the mill the better part of 20 years, that the smell was often more than he could stomach.
“It stinks, Dad,” the boy grumbled. “Why does it have to stink so much?”
“Son,” the father replied. “That ought to smell like bacon and eggs to you. Everything we have, we have because of that mill.”
It occurs to us that this tale from the deep South might serve as a rough analogy to Steamboat Springs’ annual influx of summer tourists, and while our local version of “bacon and eggs” is definitely a first-world problem when compared to living in a perpetual haze of mill exhaust, the frustration that sometimes accompanies having our streets, trails and restaurants clogged with visitors on a weekly basis is just as real.
What we have to remember — and what the father in the story was trying to tell his son — is that most everything in life comes down to a trade-off. In our case, we live in an economy that is heavily reliant on the steady influx of tourism dollars and the sales tax revenue those dollars generate. Without them, there would be no Yampa River Core Trail, no free concerts with big-name talent, no thriving support and service industries, no booming second-housing market.
In short, without our visitors — and in the absence of an alternate revenue stream — we simply wouldn’t have the amenities that make Steamboat such an appealing place to live and raise a family.
For this reason, alone, we feel we should actively support our tourism industry, even as our tourism industry actively supports us. And economic concerns aside, there’s a definite cultural allure to living in a place where you can interact with people from across the country and around the world without ever venturing beyond the city limits.
That said, we — as fellow residents — also understand the frustrations that often attend playing host to several thousand guests every weekend. So, while we support our thriving tourism industry and encourage our neighbors to do likewise, we feel there are things that could be done — both by residents and community leaders — to mitigate those frustrations.
First, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association might look for opportunities to schedule events likely to attract extra visitors at more generous intervals, rather than packing as much as possible into as short a timeframe as possible.
Second, we, as residents, could modify our own schedules. If you crave solitude and don’t want to share a trail with crowds of people, consider taking your hikes or bike rides during the early morning hours or around Happy Hour, when tourists are likely to be more interested in food and libations than outdoor vistas. There are also expansive hiking and biking areas outside city limits — the Zirkels, the Flat Tops and Rabbit Ears, to name a few — that are far less likely to be deluged with visitors than areas closer to town.
Finally, we, as a community, can make a concerted effort to weigh the pros and cons of living in a place so many people are clambering to visit. The fact that people want to come here is proof positive of what a special place we get to call home.
In case you’re wondering what became of the paper mill, it ultimately shut down.
The smoke was gone, and with it, the smell. But those things left town accompanied by the dollars that had once allowed the community to thrive.
All in all, we’re living in a pretty good situation, so when you’re tempted to shake your fist at the bumper-to-bumper traffic and throngs of people lining Lincoln Avenue, take a moment to consider life without them.
No doubt, it would be quieter, but the bacon and eggs might be harder to come by.
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