By Alesha Damerville
Images from Moving Mountains
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Robin Craigen and his wife, Heather, met while the two were running a luxury sailing charter yacht out of the British Virgin Islands. “We were working hard but we were hanging out with people on vacation, having a good time,” Robin says. “The owner made it possible for us to give people the best vacations of their lives. There were many things we could do to make it unique and interesting. We were able to give them a little more than they were expecting. That’s what we heard from people, and that is what we realized was so amazing about the time we were having there.”
The pair fell in love, married and began discussions of starting a family. “We realized family and boat life may be not compatible,” Robin says. “One of the first charters we did together was with three couples from Steamboat, which ended up being a week-long commercial for Steamboat. We heard about this incredible town in the mountains that sounded so perfect. Throughout the week we talked about the idea of providing these same services in a house in the mountains.”
On their initial visit to Steamboat Springs, the Craigens unintentionally picked the first week of mud season. “Our friends, the guests, who turned out to be the Allens from Allen’s Clothing, were flying out as we flew in. The town was deserted, minus the few that stick around through mud season. We didn’t know anyone. Which, in some ways, was probably the best thing. We were taken with the mountain, the town and how friendly people are. We didn’t find what we were looking for on that first visit, but we came away thinking Steamboat could be the place.”
They returned six months later, with a mission. “On the last day of that recon trip of looking at real estate nearly every day, we found the perfect house,” Robin says. “One of the biggest challenges was that everyone on the boat had a private cabin with a bathroom. Over and over the guests said how important that was. Finding a house with multiple bedrooms and private bathrooms was a challenge. It wasn’t the norm twenty years ago.
The house we found had six bedrooms and eight bathrooms, and was located a minute from the ski lift. Thinking, ‘How are we going to pull this off?’ we headed back to the Caribbean. It took about three months to get it all together, but one way or another we did it. We put in an offer to buy the house and start our business.”
With their plan in motion, the Craigens placed the house in the hands of a property management company for one year. “We had the year to set up our marketing plan. We showed up with the idea to offer this catered chalet experience,” Robin says. With that, Robin and Heather Craigen started the luxury vacation property management company Moving Mountains.
A few of the Craigens’ neighbors weren’t sure what to think of the idea. Many believed it sounded like a bed and breakfast, which requires a permit. “It is one of the more challenging permits to get in this town and we had no idea,” Robin says. “On the night of the City Planning Commission meeting, out came six strong objection letters and neighbors with pitchforks. We were denied the permit.”
“When we first bought it and put it with the management company, nobody said anything,” Robin says. “Then we show up and want to live in the house. We figured that’s a better solution then just renting the house. We would be there, everything would be supervised. We wanted to offer to: pick guests up, cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for them, drive them to the ski lifts, do whatever they want. We wanted to make sure everything is above board.”
After being denied by the board, the Craigens decided to introduce themselves to the neighbors. “Those six neighbors were the only ones who opposed of us. The other 50 or so living within a mile radius of the house didn’t know or didn’t care – some even gave encouragement. We went back to the planning commission with letters of support and again got denied.”
Feeling hopeless, the Craigens went to City Council. “I swear, it was one of the craziest nights at City Council. It was a tense – I would even say hostile – atmosphere,” Robin says. “One way or another, the vote went in our favor. We shortly found out there was another technicality in the code. Based on our lot size, we could only rent three out the five for-rent bedrooms.”
The plan was to rent the house as a whole, opposed to renting out rooms. “We preferred to rent to whole families,” Robin says. “The city said it didn’t it work and that they would have to come check on us to make sure we were complying. The neighbors were on them, so we had inspections while guests were in the house.”
After their long battle to obtain the permit, the Craigens returned the permit they fought so hard for. They realized they could rent the whole house if they moved out. “We found there was a demand for what we were a doing,” Robin says. “A neighbor offered us a chance to manage their house and provide the same service. We were off and running; our business slowly started to grow. We took on another house, and after 10 years we were managing eight homes.”
In the next year, Moving Mountains’ luxury portfolio went from eight to 16 houses, then from 16 to 32 shortly after. “The next year we were managing in the forties, the next year in the fifties and now we are in the eighties,” Robin says.
Moving Mountains specializes in luxury homes with five-star amenities. For more information on Moving Mountains visit www.movingmountains.com.