February 6, 2023

Chris Diamond was a ski icon and made Steamboat Springs his home after falling in love with the community.
Diamond Family/Photo courtesy

Those who knew Chris Diamond describe the former Steamboat Resort President and Chief Operating Officer as dedicated, caring and passionate, and say those qualities were reflected in his leadership throughout his time at Steamboat and throughout his four decades in the ski industry.

“It started with his passion for the industry, love for this community and commitment to this resort to stay true to our 60 year history of being Western, family friendly and genuine,” said Rob Perlman, President and Chief Operating Officer at Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.

“I think he recognized the rich history here in the Yampa Valley community and with the resort he has carried on the incredible brand and set it on the path that we are now witnessing to become one of the finest resorts in the world,” Perlman continued. “I am blessed and honored to carry on his legacy and it is truly an honor to have worked with him. I feel blessed.”

Diamond died peacefully at his home on January 12. He was 76.

Diamond was a mentor and friend to Perlman for more than 20 years.

“Chris Diamond was a legend in the industry,” Perlman said. “I had heard his name before I met him more than 20 years ago and knew that he was a respected pioneer in the industry and of all his contributions, from his East Coast days to his time here at Steamboat or its involvement with the Vermont Skiers Association, the Colorado Ski Country, the USA Trade Association, or the National Ski Areas Association. He has made a huge contribution to our industry.”

Diamond was also a friend of many in Steamboat Springs.

“He was just a really good friend,” said Bob Dapper, who had worked closely with Diamond when Dapper was Christy Sports’ director of mountain operations. “I had to watch him roll, and he had to watch me roll, and eventually we really liked each other and that’s the part that we focused on – the friendship – and it worked out well.”

Chris Diamond enjoys a day on the slopes.
Diamond Family/Photo courtesy

Dapper said he shares Diamond’s love of road biking and enjoys spending time with his friend who rides the many loops in the Steamboat Springs area. The two were also part of a group of friends who spent long weekends enjoying the great outdoors at Pingree Park.

“I’m going to miss someone I could talk to about anything, someone who could see the big picture, had great wisdom and his laugh,” Dapper said. “He had the best laugh, I’ll tell you, and I’ll miss that.”

Diamond was born in Danbury, Connecticut but spent his childhood in Easthampton, Massachusetts. His father, James Diamond, was a World War II veteran who landed at Omaha Beach, and his mother, Mary Diamond, was a social worker and played a leading role in Children’s Aid and Family Services in Northampton.

After graduating from Williston Academy in Easthampton, Diamond received a scholarship to pursue his undergraduate degree at Middlebury College, where he served as social chairman and paid cook for his beloved Alpha Sigma Psi fraternity. He graduated from Middlebury on an assignment from ROTC and received his notification to report for active duty in January 1970.

He served in Vietnam with the US Army as a first lieutenant and became a platoon commander in a joint force of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and the 510th Signal Company. As a result of his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Commendations.

Upon returning from Vietnam in 1972, Diamond completed his master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before taking on the role of assistant to Killington Mountain Resort founder Preston Smith.

In 1977, Diamond became general manager of neighboring Mount Snow, which was later acquired by SKI Ltd in 1986. was acquired. Diamond served as Vice President of Corporate Development for the parent company from 1994 to 1996.

Les Otten acquired SKI Ltd. in 1996 and founded American Skiing Company, and Diamond returned to his role as general manager of Mount Snow. When the American Skiing Company acquired the Steamboat Resort in 1997, Diamond assumed the role of General Manager at the resort.

Chris Diamond, right, and his good friend Bob Dapper loved getting on their bikes and hitting the streets.
Diamond Family/Photo courtesy

“Chris was an icon in the ski industry, not just because he was a good president at Steamboat,” said Dapper. “He was considered the meow of the cat throughout the industry.”

During his career, Diamond also served as chairman of the National Ski Areas Association and Colorado Ski Country USA. He received an NSAA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 and was inducted into the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame in 2017.

In 2015, The Steamboat Pilot reported that Diamond was at the forefront as the resort braced itself against climate change with a new era of efficient snow guns. He served on the airport board when Routt County modernized and significantly expanded the airport terminal, and Diamond advocated the introduction of a general sales tax to keep Steamboat’s ski-season flight program competitive at a time of airline mergers.

The ski resort took advantage of the public improvements at its base during Diamond’s leadership, with a music stage and large sandstone grill deck overlooking the freshly melted cobblestones next to the gondola building.

Chris Diamond, President and Chief Operating Officer of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., is honored with a 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Ski Areas Association.
Matt Stensland/Steamboat Pilot & Today archives

The first six-seater chairlift helped get beginner skiers up the mountain early in the day to reduce congestion, and the same six-seater ski lift helped usher in the night skiing era in Steamboat.

Keenen Diamond recalled that his father arrived just as the Steamboat Grand was being completed, and at a time when the American Skiing Company was being financially challenged and facing community backlash. But Keenen said his father endured the early criticism and worked hard for the community he loved.

“He was someone who gave everything he had to the Steamboat Springs community,” Keenen said.

Keenen said his father faced the problems at the ski resort head-on and made tough decisions to ensure Steamboat thrived even when the parent company struggled. He said that despite the less than warm welcome, his father was able to gain the support of the community and knew Steamboat Springs would be his home.

“It was so bad and the relationship was so broken, but you jump ahead a few years and he’s Yampa Valley Man of the Year and the resort is doing well. The proof and endorsement of its management is all the skier attendance and reviews over the years through the sale and financial success of the resort and town,” said Keenen. “He put everything he had into Steamboat Springs, and not just Steamboat resort.”

Winter Carnival’s Grand Marshals, Chris and Eileen Diamond, took center stage during the opening ceremony in Howelsen Hill Lodge’s Olympian Hall.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Diamond has also served on numerous boards, including the Routt County Airport Advisory Commission, the Steamboat Chamber (past President), the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and the Strings Music Festival.

Diamond left Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp as President and Chief Operating Officer in June 2015. retired, but that didn’t mean he had stopped serving Steamboat as he continued to dedicate his time to local efforts like the Strings Music Festival.

“I have served with him on the Chamber Board for many years,” said Betse Grasby, executive director of the Steamboat Art Museum and co-founder and executive director of the Strings Music Festival until her retirement in 2013. “I have served with him for many years. … We have lost a respected leader who loved this community and understood this community.”

Steamboat Resort President Chris Diamond holds a copy of Ski Inc.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

She said Diamond often worked behind the scenes and out of the spotlight to support many community organizations. She said he enjoys going to Strings Music Festival events and was on the board until his death. He was also a patron of the Steamboat Art Museum.

Keenen said his father also remained involved in the ski industry, whether it was advising resort managers who approached him, providing advice or writing books, based on his wisdom and contacts from four decades in the industry. He also worked as part of a group to help Middlebury College better manage the small Snowbowl ski resort it owns and operates.

He was the award-winning author of Ski Inc., a book that provided an insight into his journey in the ski business. He followed with Ski Inc., 2020, which explored Alterra’s rise in the ski industry as the company began to challenge Vail Resorts’ supremacy.

“He spent 50 years of his life on the East Coast,” Keenen said. “Of all the communities he has lived in his life, the community he feels most connected to is Steamboat Springs. This community is most important to him.”

In addition to Diamond’s passion for skiing and the ski industry, he was an avid cyclist and sailor. In his 20s he started sailing and competed successfully in national and international competitions.

Diamond is survived by his 44-year-old wife, Eileen Diamond; his sister Barbara Diamond; his two children, Keenen Diamond (Mandy) and Elizabeth Diamond (Peter); and two grandchildren, Kaden and Makayla.

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Strings Music Festival or the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado.

“I’m going to speak at his memorial and it’s going to be about a man who loved skiing, who discovered his passion for snow during a less than perfect upbringing,” said Keenen. “He wasn’t a great skier, but a guy who just loved it and thought other people should love it and have a chance to do it. Luckily, he was able to turn his passion for skiing into a career and found a community that he truly loved and was able to bring that same passion and energy to all aspects of that community.”

Chris Diamond grew up in the east and has a passion for sailing. He also has a passion for skiing and the ski industry.
Diamond Family/Photo courtesy

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