By Blythe Terrell (Contact)
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs probably won’t shake off its economic challenges for two or three years, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond predicted.
Diamond gave the featured talk at Mainstreet Steamboat Springs’ annual meeting Friday at Old Town Pub & Restaurant. He offered tentative predictions and noted that Steamboat Ski Area and downtown businesses need to work together to provide good service to visitors.
“In terms of this season, it’s not the end of the world,” Diamond said. “We’re going to get through it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time we get to April 12, which is our closing date … I think we could be off in total visits in single digits.”
But fallout from problems in the U.S. financial market probably will trickle down for a couple of years, Diamond said. He attributed that to discussions with people from Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, a public hedge fund and private equity firm, is the parent company of Intrawest, which is the parent company of Ski Corp.
One bonus for Steamboat, however, is its high approval rating for service. Surveyors working for Ski Corp. ask visitors to rank their experiences on a 1 to 10 scale, Diamond said. The two lowest scores are subtracted from the two highest, he said, which is considered the most valid measurement. Steamboat had earned an 8.2 through about Sunday, he said. That ranking represents visitors’ experiences on the mountain and off, Diamond said.
“To get something like an 8.2 is extraordinary,” he said. “I think last year, we were at a 7.8. To be there — again, this is the whole community.”
The ranking is the highest among Intrawest’s resorts, Diamond said. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company runs 11 North American resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Copper Mountain and Winter Park.
Businesses must focus on maintaining that high level of service, he said. The weakened economy provides an opportunity to hire and retain workers who provide that, Diamond said. The Steamboat brand of Western hospitality also will be crucial, he said.
“We need to make sure next year we do everything we can to make the Steamboat product differentiated in the market,” Diamond told the crowd.
END OF STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY ARTICLE...............
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