'Otten to be forgotten'

Party held today to 'celebrate' CEO's resignation

— The folks at El Ranch Nuevo in downtown Steamboat Springs are hosting a party tonight in hopes that the resignation of American Skiing Company chairman and CEO Les Otten this week signifies a new era in Ski Town USA.

They've dubbed the party "Otten to be Forgotten."

"It's a celebration in hopes of a brighter future for Steamboat and the ski area, and a more local-friendly town," said El Rancho Nuevo brew master, David Brererton.

Brererton said the animosity toward Otten here was evident in the bumper stickers that sprouted proclaiming "More Steamboat, Les Otten," and on an occasion when Otten was booed and heckled in a lift line.

Brererton said the feeling that American Skiing isn't particularly friendly to locals was piqued again this spring with the cancellation of the chute Bump-Off on St. Patrick's Day. The "Otten to be Forgotten" party will begin at 9 p.m. Brererton said, and revelers can look forward to a free round of billiards on Les, as well as $1.50 mugs of ale.

"We're trying not to be too slanderous," Brererton said. "But there's definitely some animosity out there."

Otten's honeymoon in the Steamboat community, if he ever had one, was short-lived. He disenamored himself locally, when American Skiing sought the early

retirement of a number of longtime mid-level managers at the ski area here in early 1998. They were people who had become fixtures in the community, and corporate downsizing didn't go down well in Ski Town USA.

The departure of the ski area employees here took place just a few months after American Skiing purchased Steamboat and Heavenly Valley, Calif. ski areas for about $305 million in late 1997. Not long after, bumper stickers began appearing around Steamboat declaring "More Steamboat, Les Otten." Otten acknowledged the situation and said he had work to do to repair his image in Steamboat. But he never enjoyed much benevolence in Steamboat, and the ill will was apparent during the drawn-out construction of the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

Otten got his start in the ski industry as a marketing trainee at Killington, Vt., but he made his reputation by first buying a small Maine ski area, Sunday River, from the owners of Killington, then reversing its fortune by building new resort properties and investing in new ski lifts.

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