Steamboat By The Decade: The 2000s
Written by Eugene Buchanan
Marking the biggest lodging development to ever come to the base area, the 2000s started off with a bang with the much-heralded opening of the Steamboat Grand Hotel (now The Steamboat Grand), at the time the largest building between Denver and Salt Lake City. Located just steps away from the gondola at 2300 Mt. Werner Circle, the development raised the bar on Steamboat’s overnight accommodations, dining options and spa facilities.
But the investment in lodging didn’t dampen the resort’s attention to its primary product: skiing and riding Steamboat’s trademark Champagne powder—coined by local rancher Joe McElroy way back in the 1950s. In fact, the resort made it easier than ever for its guests by unveiling its First Tracks program later that year, letting guests lay fresh tracks off the Sundown Express lift. If their legs could last that long, those First Trackers could also join the other skiers and riders at the newly opened Bear River Bar & Grill for après at the resort’s base.
Still, the decade wasn’t all about enhanced lodging and laying freshies. Freestyle also came back to the forefront with the opening of the Mavericks Superpipe in Bashor Bowl in 2001 (a superpipe is a halfpipe with walls higher than 16 feet and vertical walls approaching 90 degrees). As well as adding some black diamond terrain to its slopestyle offerings, the resort was also going green. In 2004 it installed the cutting edge, wind-powered Burgess Creek chairlift, reducing its carbon footprint at a time when many other resorts didn’t even know the term.
Shortly later, in 2005, Steamboat also began embracing another form of gravity-fed fun in summer by installing mountain bike racks on the gondola for guests to access its new Bike Park. A year later its winter terrain got a boost with the opening of the Sunshine Express high-speed quad—the same year the late Cody St. John, now memorialized with the mountain’s annual Cody’s Challenge randonee race‚ was voted Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2006 Ski Patroller of the Year.
In December 2006, Intrawest, which was recently acquired by hedge fund company Fortress, bought the Steamboat Ski Area and related assets for $265 million from American Skiing Co., bringing an end to ASC’s 10-year run as the ski area’s owner.
The improvements kept on coming, with 2007 wrapping up another $16 million in resort enhancements, including the installation of the Christie Peak Express, the resort’s first-ever high-speed six-pack chairlift, and realigning the beginner terrain at the base. “The whole bottom area was just filled with lift terminals, which was kind of awkward,” says Doug Allen, VP of Mountain Operations at the time. “We also removed the headwall on South Face and regraded it into three trails, which helped make it a lot better.”
Trailhead lodge also completed its development of the Wildhorse gondola, leading from Trailhead Lodge and the Meadows Parking Lot up to the base area. And on the instruction front, the resort benefitted immensely from Deb Armstrong—who won the gold medal in Women’s Giant Slalom at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia—and longtime instructor Scott Anfang being named Alpine and Snowboard technical directors, respectively.
The decade ended with even more private developments coming online at the base area, with One Steamboat Place, Edgemont and Trailhead Lodge all augmenting timeshare and lodging options at the bottom of the mountain. “American Skiing Company had sold a lot of land, so private developers came in with their resources,” adds Allen. “It added a lot of lodging options to the base.”
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