|By Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake
TribuneMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 8, 2009--Steve Lindburg faced a career dilemma.
He had a great job running the Hilton Salt Lake City Center hotel for the past 16 years. Hilton had given him opportunities to become general manager of higher profile hotels in the company chain.
But with his son, Scott, in his senior year at Brighton High School, the Lindburgs had no desire to disrupt that important part of his life with an out-of-town move.
Then the Dakota Mountain Lodge opened at The Canyons, outside of Park City. Problem solved. A Hilton property that also boasts the Waldorf-Astoria brand name, the 170-condominium lodge needed a general manager who knew the company's ins-and-outs but also was familiar with Utah's unique landscape.
The fit was ideal for Lindburg, who also chairs the Utah Board of Tourism Development.
Little wonder, then, that he said, "I'm probably the luckiest man on the planet.
"It's a chance to take on a new challenge without having to move," Lindburg said. "And it's hard for a hotelier to say no to a hotel designed to get Five Diamonds from AAA. It's definitely a job promotion, but still in the family."
Lindburg took over at Dakota Mountain Lodge a few months after it quietly opened in July, catering to members of Hilton's frequent guests program. Right away, he could tell the start-up staff was well trained and functioning well. A customer survey for November produced a 93 percent satisfaction rating.
"That speaks to
the strength of our team. So I have no inclination to change anything. Our team has jelled," he said, noting that a few more ski valets -- people who carry guests' ski/snowboard between the hotel and a nearby lift -- will be added this winter, boosting employment close to 200.
Although the hotel is opening during the worst recession since the Great Depression, Lindburg is confident Dakota Mountain Lodge has the wherewithal to "ride the storm out."
The building itself is owned by the primary financier, Goldman Sachs, through its subsidiary, Archon Hospitality.
"They can survive the ebbs and flows," he said, saying bookings for fall and winter are "not stellar yet ... but we've hit our budget from July to now. That gives us confidence our projections for December are going to be OK."
Moving from a downtown hotel that served numerous business travelers to a recreation-oriented resort property is appealing, Lindburg said.
"Guests here will be easier to deal with on an emotional level. You don't really have the ability to get to know business travelers. The best we can do is be unobtrusive," he said.
But now that his clients are largely leisure travelers, Lindburg feels he will have ample chances to wear his tourism promotion hat and to extol what Utah has to offer -- perhaps enticing a few guests to take in a few more sights by adding days at the beginning or ends of their trips.
And for Lindburg, telling people where best to find fun is easy work.
"I like what I do because it feeds my soul when people have a good time," he said.
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