Oct. 31, 2015
Bob Dapper cowboys up
Steamboat Springs — For those who were not in Steamboat Springs in the early 1970s, it is worth having a conversation with Bob Dapper, this year’s Business Person of the Year.
Originally from the Northeastern United States, Dapper was a ski racer who attended the University of Denver. Before making the permanent move to Steamboat, he would come up here during winter breaks from school.
“If you were here during the ’70s, everyone did everything,” Dapper said. “It really took the community to make things work — no fractions.”
The Steamboat Ski Area, which opened a few years earlier on Jan. 12, 1963, was still in its infancy. Dapper worked as a ski instructor in the growing ski school. “There might have been 20 of us,” Dapper said. That meant they helped out wherever needed, which included evacuating the gondola, assisting ski patrol and filling in lift operators. During seasons when snow was lacking and snowmaking had yet to be installed, Dapper was one of the community members who helped shovel snow from the trees onto the trails so skiing would be possible for guests. He was hired at the ski area by Loris “Bugs” Werner, who had been skiing on the mountain that bears his family’s name for more than 60 years. The two men are still close friends today, and Dapper recalled many powder days skiing in the trees with Werner, who Dapper said was a great influence on him. Werner said Dapper is a humble man, who has worked mainly behind the scenes and will not share his accomplishments unless someone asks him. “There are very few people who have as much enthusiasm and ambition as Bob does,” Werner said. “When he decides he wants to do something, he does it and does it well. He does the work of seven or eight people. He’s continually on the go.”
Dapper worked his way up to assistant ski school director before being hired 1986 by Sport Stalker, which would later merge with Christy Sports. Today, Dapper is the director of mountain operations for the company, which has more than 40 locations in the Rocky Mountain region. Keith Liefer, partner and chief operating officer for Christy Sports, called Dapper a unique character and a promoter. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to promote your business or promote your cause or event,” Liefer said. “He’s passionate about Steamboat. He promotes Steamboat everywhere he goes.” Dapper is well connected and well respected, Liefer said, and he is not afraid to share his opinion. “He’s a great person to have on your side in business and by your side as a friend,” Liefer said.
Outside of work, Dapper competed in endurance sports, including the 1988 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
He also beat cancer, helped create the Steamboat Pentathlon and secured a donation to build trails on Howelsen Hill. He served as Steamboat’s soccer commissioner, was the race director for the Steamboat Marathon and serves on the Routt County Crime Stoppers board.
Dapper was also instrumental in the founding of the Mountain Village Partnership, a group that brings together the business community at the base area.
“Bob is a riot to work with,” MVP president Katie Brown said. “He’s always straight up about things. He doesn’t beat around the bush.” This past summer, he led out the USA Pro Challenge cyclists from the base area in Steamboat style — riding his horse, Dusty, and holding a gun. “He is what Steamboat is all about,” Brown said. She said Dapper lives by the Code of the West, which means talking less and saying more, and knowing where to draw the line.
The list of Dapper’s community contributions is significant. “I’m enthusiastic, and if you get me believing in something, I’m going to take it and run,” Dapper said.
Dapper is most proud of the work he has done with the Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center. Physical therapist Cheri Trousil started the program 16 years ago.
“My personal belief is that healing happens outdoors,” Trousil said. Trousil said Dapper helped from the beginning, when she lacked the business experience to lead a nonprofit organization. Dapper mentored Trousil to help the program realize success.
“He embraces so much of what Steamboat is,” Trousil said. “He really cares about people, for sure.”
Former Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern said Dapper has always been there for Steamboat, and the Navigator Award could not go to anyone better. “He’s what I would call the quiet leader,” Kern said. “He’s always in the background and involved with an incredible amount in the community.”
Dapper is forward thinking and thinks every idea has some merit. He hopes the next generation of Steamboat leaders is ready to take the reins.
“The course will always be as good as the people that are steering it, but so far, so good,” Dapper said.