Bob Enever: Sliding hill mulled
If we taxpayers are going to be paying for saving Howelsen Hill, we should participate in finding the solution. Here’s my two cents.
Hills slough when they get waterlogged. In the pre-history of the hill, before man skied on it, the soft snow acted as an insulator so the lowest level of snow could melt into the unfrozen ground continuously all winter long.
Now we pound the snow down with skis, so it’s not as good an insulator and more than the natural amount of snow remains on the ground in the spring. This increases the amount of water released into the soils in the short spring thaw, increasing the propensity to slough.
Howelsen Hill operations pour water on the hill in the form of manmade snow, which also sits on the frozen ground and melts very quickly in the spring. This also creates more saturation of the soils than the natural snowfall and more instability of the hill.
This is all “a-priori” reasoning, innocent of any testing or engineering, but if it is only half true, would it not make sense to try making make the surface of the ground non-absorbent so the water runs off and the soils do not get saturated?
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the city could start some studies and tests to determine feasibility and start getting some experience while soil studies are being conducted. Geo-textiles and chemical treatments all have their problems but no solution to saving Howelsen Hill is going to be easy or cheap, and no program should be started without rigorous testing.
If we are going to be spending millions of our money on this, we need transparency, so the public feels confidence in the outcome. The club, the city and the newspaper should combine to keep the public informed of the alternatives studied and test results, continuously until the program is complete.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A storm rolling in late Sunday could bring the Yampa Valley between 3 to 6 inches of snow, but next weekend could prove more productive as the weather pattern becomes more active.