With the grace of a dancer and a flash of red hair, she strides across the main lobby of The Broadmoor hotel to greet guests waiting to check in.
“Where’s the lake?” ask three newcomers, and poof, she’s off, headed up the escalator to share one of her favorite spots: the lake, which reflects the resort, with the mountains in the background. Then, on the way to the down escalator, the ever-smiling Ann Alba straightens an area rug, pets resort guest Riley the Corgi, waves to an employee, answers a conference organizer’s question, gives a quick answer on the always-present cell phone hooked to her belt and unobtrusively picks up a down feather in one swoop.
She visits the phone room, where 700 daily calls come in, and checks in with Lauren Morley and Shauna Sartori at the Bee Bunch children’s camp. “Anywhere I can touch, I like to,” she said.
To many guests, she’s the smiling lady with the name tag that reads simply Ann Alba. She’s the überhostess. At any moment she’ll be part concierge, part desk clerk, part mom, part pillow fluffer, part “beep beep” Road Runner power walking around the property. In heels.
Employees see her blur and call her “The Red Flash.”
Alba isn’t just one of the 1,600 Broadmoor Resort employees. She’s the boss. Since 2001, she has been the resident manager, second in command to Broadmoor President/CEO Steve Bartolin.
No matter, she’s still just Ann. Over and over, hotel employees describe her as “so sweet, so nice, a real sweetheart.”
She’s still the young woman who started out in 1987 as a banquet server in Broadmoor West. For a time, she worked breakfast and lunch at Charles Court — only male servers were allowed at dinner, she remembers, rolling her blue eyes. For five years she managed the Terrace Lounge, and then it was a move to operations for five years as assistant manager.
She has loved every job, Alba admitted, but operations suited her perfectly.
“You’re the conduit for the guest experience from arrival to departure. I love what I do. You can’t fake it,” Alba said.
Now, the kicker: Alba is just 45 years old. “I was just a kid when I was adopted by the Broadmoor family.”
In February, she will have been with the resort for 23 years.
This love of the service industry is in her family’s genes. Her father had a bar and restaurant in Coldwater, Mich., now run by her older brother. Alba was just taking a short break from school when she visited Colorado “and never went back.”
Her dad died when she was 16 and never saw her success, but her proud mother visits and “is treated like a queen by the staff, just like they treat all the guests.”
Alba, who says with a laugh that she doesn’t quite have the patience for a slow game of golf, had worked at several country clubs and golf courses. Her boss at Valley Hi Golf Course knew there were openings at The Broadmoor and sent her to interview with Joe Spears, who managed the food service in Broadmoor West. “Joe was my mentor. I’ll never forget him. I started work that day.” She stayed on at Valley Hi, too.
For years, she worked for Bill Roub, The Broadmoor’s 38-year hotel and beverage manager. She and Roub, who retired, check in daily with each other by phone.
The 3,000-acre resort, Alba learned early on, is “truly a city” and much the same as her small hometown, where everyone knows everyone and has for years.
The employees, Alba said, are what make it all work: “When all is said and done, our employees are ultimately what our guests remember.”
Even in a down economy.
The economic ups and downs have been reality at The Broadmoor, just as everywhere.
“The economy has hit our industry hard on all levels; there is no denying it,” she said. “The Broadmoor has always been able to react to and survive challenging economic times in the past, as we will survive these unprecedented times. Along with everyone else, we have been offering some very appetizing rates and specials and are fortunate to have very repeat and loyal guests.”
“Our focus continues to be on our most valuable asset, the service that our staff provides,” she said. “They will always be our secret weapon — in good or bad times!”
Many guests will remember Alba, as well, never knowing that she was the resident manager.
One, in particular, probably never forgot her, she admitted, chuckling.
As a new assistant manager, she was showing her first VIP to his suite and filled him in on all of the resort’s fascinating history. The Red Flash pointed out the amenities of his luxury accommodations, was saying goodbye, turned and walked right into a wall.
In inimitable Alba style, she joked, “When did they put in that wall?”
The VIP burst out laughing.
So much for her eight years of dance classes, her mother kidded her.
The employees know their vivacious boss well. They know what she expects of them — and they know to cut her off at one espresso.
Her other guilty pleasure: chocolate.
Her passion is the property she manages. But even a person who spends every day in a spectacular locale needs to get away every now and then.
She and “very laid-back” husband Lawrence Alba, a paving contractor (Tars and Stripes Paving & Excavating), take their German shepherds and head to their cabin, “two hours from here, a cozy place in the middle of nowhere.”
And the Red Flash relaxes.