Steamboat By The Decade: The 2020s
Written by Eugene Buchanan
The 2020s started off with a bang for Steamboat Ski Resort as it kicked off the decade with the first two phases of its multi-year, $200 million Full Steam Ahead redevelopment project, marking the biggest investment in resort history.
As part of the project, the resort demolished the former gondola building and moved its base terminal slightly uphill to make room for the new Steamboat Square, completely transforming the base area experience for guests. The redevelopment included installing a new escalator; adding new fireside gathering spaces and an après ski beach; the construction of the new Steamboat Mountain Stage for festivals, concerts, and events; building Skeeter’s Ice Skating Rink, which will transition to a lawn in summer for events and activities; and adding the new Range Food & Drink Hall, elevating guests’ culinary and après experience with such eateries as Sunshine Bowl Ramen, Pioneer Pie, Twister Tacos and Why Not Sweet Shop and a second floor with a full bar and indoor/outdoor seating overlooking the mountain and Steamboat Square. Underneath all this lies new resort operations facilities, including locker rooms, ski patrol, a UCHealth Clinic and more.
Of course, even bigger news comes on the lift and instruction side of things. Just in time for the 2022/23 ski season came the installation of the lower leg of the new Wild Blue Gondola, which brings guests from the base area to Greenhorn Ranch, a new world-class learning center near Bashor Bowl and an area dedicated to beginner skiers and riders. Already known as one of the best family resorts in the world, Steamboat’s new Greenhorn Ranch redefines first timers’ experience by whisking skiers and riders to a new purpose-built instructional area featuring a new beginners’ chairlift, four beginner magic carpets, 30 snow guns, and Terrain Based Learning technology features on 14 beginner-sculpted acres. The Wild Blue gondola also increases guest capacity out of the base, letting riders access the Thunderhead high-speed chairlift, while creating more open spaces for guests to gather at the newly designed base.
“For years we’ve dreamed of developing a new and cutting-edge beginners’ area and Greenhorn Ranch is exactly what Steamboat needed,” said Rick DeVos, Steamboat’s former ski school director who has taught skiing here since 1979. “It’s a state-of-the-art beginner complex designed to make the instruction experience streamlined, effective and exciting. Every aspect has been addressed.”
And it’s only getting better, with plenty more on the horizon as well. For the 2023/’24 season, the second leg of the Wild Blue project will be completed, with the new, 10-person, state-of-the-art gondola — the longest and fastest 10-person gondola in the country — continuing on to carry skiers and riders all the way to the top of Sunshine Peak, ending at the top of the Sundown Express and Sunshine Express lifts. For the first time ever, Steamboat will now offer base-to-top access for guests, on a single lift. Snowmaking is also being expanded in the Sunshine area, opening it up to prime early season skiing and riding.
But wait, there’s more! (It’s so fun being able to say that.) Also for next year comes the new 650-acre Pioneer Ridge and Fish Creek terrain expansion, complete with a new high-speed chairlift, making Steamboat the second largest resort in Colorado at a whopping 3,620 acres. And all this comes during a year on pace for near-record snowfall and the celebration of the resort’s 60th anniversary here in Ski Town USA.
“It’s super exciting times,” says resort president and COO Rob Perlman, who you’ll find out “testing” the product as much as he can. “Celebrating our 60th anniversary as the Full Steam Ahead project comes to life illuminates how far we’ve come. The spirit and vision that created Steamboat 60 years ago is truly alive and well.”
Other resort news includes expanded airline flights, with its newest for 2022/23 a nonstop on Southwest Airlines to and from Nashville, TN—adding to Steamboat’s legacy air program of flights from 16 domestic airports on major air carriers American, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United. The resort also continues to go green regarding its sustainability initiatives, reducing plastic pollution by recycling plastic film at all rental and retail locations, replacing single-use plastic bottles with recyclable aluminum, recycling all aluminum cans and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in 2023. All of its new buildings in Steamboat Square are also LEED certified while it continues to identify additional sustainability opportunities. And on the childcare front, it’s created a unique, employer-based childcare facility, one of only a only a handful in the country and freeing up over 30 childcare spaces elsewhere in Routt County.
So, 60 years after the resort’s founding, five after its sale to Alterra Mountain Co., and just a third of the way into the new decade, Steamboat is firing on all cylinders as it heads into the 2020s, making its world-class skiing and riding better than ever. Like town’s early skiers, cowboys and pioneers who arrived by train, it truly is “Full Steam Ahead.”
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