Steamboat By The Decade: The 2010s
Written by Eugene Buchanan
Steamboat ushered in the 2010s by hopping on the mountain biking bandwagon, following the lead of such other Intrawest-owned or operated resorts as Whistler and Winter Park in opening up its world-class winter terrain to another sport relying on gravity in summer. In 2011, the resort unveiled its new and improved Steamboat Bike Park designed by world-renowned trail builder Gravity Logic. The park opened with three purpose-built, flowy downhill trails, which have now grown to include more than 40 miles of trails for riders of all ability levels.
Those riders also had a new base area to enjoy as the resort also opened up its new Gondola Square Plaza and outdoor music stage at the base, as well as its heralded Promenade, daylighting and highlighting Burgess Creek for guests to enjoy, complete with gurgling waterfalls, sandy beaches for kids and more. Of course, all that water in summertime has to come from somewhere, and that’s the snow atop Mt. Werner, of which there is always plenty. On Feb. 20, 2012, in fact, Steamboat set a single-day mid-mountain snowfall record when a whopping 27 inches fell overnight, giving guests one of the best powder days ever on record.
“I remember that day well,” says Wes Richey, the resort’s current ski patrol director who has been working ski patrol in Steamboat for 44 years. “It was epic—almost too much snow to ski. But Rolex was incredible. And snowmobile duty was tough; you didn’t want to get stuck and all the face shots made it difficult to see. There was a lot of digging for everybody.”
Steamboat’s skiers and riders also had more time to track it all up. Marking one of the resort’s biggest advancements in recent years, in 2013 the resort opened night skiing on the lower mountain off the Christie Express lift. Improvements came to dining as well. Shortly after introducing night skiing, the resort also unveiled a $5 million renovation of Four Points Lodge, expanding its occupancy to let even more guests to give their legs a much-needed rest while dining on world-class cuisine. It even began offering snowcat dinner rides to the Four Points Lodge from the top of the gondola.
Racing got a boost as well, with the ski area opening the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine Training Venue off the Christie Express lift, giving the resort a dedicated training and competition venue for racing. “We’re Ski Town USA and we produce Olympians, and to do that you have to invest in both facilities and the athletes—it doesn’t just come from drinking the Steamboat water,” says Olympic gold medalist and the resort’s former Alpine technical director Deb Armstrong. “You have to have world-class training to make world-class athletes, and that’s exactly what we did with the new race course. It’s a fantastic venue that can be used for training and competitions all season long.”
Racers weren’t the only ones flying high. In 2015, the Steamboat- and city-subsidized air program grew its service to a record 11 nonstop flights from major cities around the country. Helping address those increasing guest visits was the addition of yet another high-speed quad chairlift, this one a new Elkhead lift, cutting ride time in half. All this again made the resort enticing to investors, and in 2017 Intrawest sold Steamboat to the new Alterra Mountain Company ownership group comprised of Henry Crown & Co and KSL Capital Partners. The acquisition lumped Steamboat together with 12 other resorts owned by the group, including California’s Mammoth Mountain and Utah’s Deer Valley. That same year Steamboat joined the coveted Ikon Pass, just after the pass was unveiled by Alterra, as one of the pass’s most heralded additions.
While the Ikon partnership let passholders ski and ride at a multitude of other world-class resorts, the improvements kept coming at Steamboat as well. In 2018, the resort opened the Timber & Torch bar and restaurant in Gondola Square, replacing the Bear River Grill, and debuted the Taco Beast as an industry first: a mobile, on-mountain snowcat delivering food to skiers and riders. A year later, it replaced its long-running gondola with a new Doppelmayr gondola, increasing both its capacity and speed — and setting the stage for the resort’s heralded $200 million Full Steam Ahead project to kick off the 2020s. Steamboat: it just keeps getting better.
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