SEPTEMBER 19, 2019 BY 

Donation is resort’s largest cash commitment in its history

Kent Vertrees and Eugene Buchanan congratulate Jackie Brown, chair of the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable, shortly after she cut a ribbon celebrating the launch of the Yampa River Fund. The endowed fund will be used to fund projects to improve river health, protect the water supply and boost river flow in dry years. Steamboat Resort pledged $500,000 to the fund as a founding donor. The $500,000 donations will be matched dollar for dollar under a million-dollar matching challenge grant, boosting the amount raised by the money to $1 million.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Every spring, the snow you ski and ride on at Steamboat Resort melts into Walton, Burgess, Priest and Fish creeks before trickling downstream into the Yampa River.

From there, what was once Champagne Powder on the mountain becomes the water that Yampa Valley drinks from, plays on and grows its food with.

On Thursday, Steamboat Resort announced that it plans to donate $500,000 to the Yampa River Fund as a founding donor to the new endowed fund, which will pay for projects to protect the Yampa River’s flow.

“The Yampa River is the lifeblood of our community, of our valley and really Northwest Colorado,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Rob Perlman said. “It’s how we have our ranching heritage. It’s part of the agricultural industry. It’s the water we drink in the city of Steamboat Springs and all the way down to Craig and Dinosaur. It’s clearly a part of recreation, which includes, obviously, skiing and snowboarding, but also fly fishing and kayaking and whitewater rafting, tubing. The Yampa River is just such a part of our community that we really felt that this was a great cause to get behind.”

The Yampa River Fund will pay for three types of projects aimed at benefiting all water users, from South Routt ranchers to Steamboat rafters to people drinking water from Craig faucets and the endangered fish living in Dinosaur National Monument. This includes leasing water to boost flows in dry years, actions to restore the river health and water infrastructure improvements.

The $500,000 donations will be matched dollar for dollar under a million-dollar matching challenge grant, boosting the amount raised by the money to $1 million.

“The Steamboat Ski Corp. gift has unlocked $500,000 of the million-dollar challenge grant, but there’s still half a million dollars of challenge grant just waiting for other people to step forward and unlock it on a dollar-for-dollar basis,” said Nancy Smith, external affairs director for The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program.

The Nature Conservancy will lead management of the fund until at least 2021.

Perlman said the resort is “putting their money where its mouth is” in supporting its core values, particularly collaboration and environment. This donation is the largest single cash donation since the resort was founded in 1963. Last week, Steamboat Resort also announced it has created a new department focused on environmental sustainability.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off Steamboat’s new sustainability work than by making a big splash into such an important community effort,” Sarah Jones, the resort’s new sustainability and community engagement director, said in a news release. “We appreciate how critical the environment is to our business and understand the inextricable link between the river and the resort. Funding the Yampa River Fund supports Steamboat’s environment, economy and way of life.”

The resort will donate $100,000 per year to the fund for the next five years.

Smith said Ski Corp.’s donation “lays a strong foundation for the effort to be successful.” Ski Corp. will participate in the fund’s board of directors and the smaller steering committee that will make funding decisions.

“It’s a great example of yet again, how all of the different water users and sectors of the Yampa Valley community are willing to come together, roll up their sleeves, sit at the table and work together to protect an incredible river, while still building a thriving economy for the valley,” Smith said.

Ski Corp. will join about 20 other local governments, companies and organizations overseeing the fund’s operation. Other entities range from agricultural organizations, such as the Moffat County Cattleman’s Association and Community Agricultural Alliance, to nonprofits, such as the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Friends of the Yampa, to businesses, including Smartwool and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

There’s still room for more, too.

“Even though the Yampa River Fund is now designed and launched, there is still so much opportunity to come to the table and help shape it, participate fully and make their own impact on the future of the Yampa River Fund by participating,” Smith said.

She also noted there’s still $2 million needed to reach organizers’ fundraising goal of $4.75 million over the next five years.

“The real purpose of that million-dollar challenge grant from that donor is to inspire the community and to bring forth other members of the local community who can help endow and ensure a really healthy future for the Yampa River,” Smith said.

At a glance:

If you missed Thursday’s Yampa River Fund launch party, you can donate online any time at

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.