City staff looking into new, gravity-defying summer attraction for Howelsen Hill
Steamboat Springs — Someday, ski jumping may not be the only way to defy gravity at Howelsen Hill.
The city’s parks and community services department is starting to look into the possibility of adding an aerial adventure course and ziplines as a way to boost summer visitation to Howelsen.
Aerial adventure courses allow visitors to tackle a series of obstacles high above the ground while they are attached to a safety cable.
A Front Range consulting company that specializes in the development of such attractions was at Howelsen earlier this week to start to see if the terrain at the park would be suitable for an aerial course.
Kyrill Kretzschmar, the city’s recreation and enterprise supervisor, described the visit as a productive three-hour brainstorming session.
“The consensus was this is a great site where you can get very creative,” Kretzschmar told the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday night. “There are a lot of different options. It’s totally doable.”
Aerial adventure courses each have unique features, but they all generally allow visitors to test their balance and swing on a course high above the ground.
A new course in Jackson Hole features a network of ziplines, balance beams and cargo nets suspended 25 feet above the ground.
Kretszschmar said he believes an aerial course has the potential to “change the overall picture for Howelsen Hill.”
“You can talk about these ideas all day long, but unless you have consultants look at the site, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kretszchmar said.
After the city receives a preliminary report on the feasibility of the course, it will then decide whether to continue pursuing the attraction.
Soil testing would be necessary before a more comprehensive feasibility study.
The aerial course would be served by the chairlift that was recently damaged by a landslide on the hill.
City staff is currently working to assess the damage and come up with repair options.
The landslide also damaged the Alpine slide, a popular summer attraction at Howelsen.
The city’s preliminary look at an aerial adventure course comes as ski areas in Colorado are installing more and more summer amenities to draw in visitors and generate more revenue.
Crested Butte has a five-stage zipline tour, while the Steamboat Ski Area and several others have added more downhill mountain bike trails and disc golf courses.
Kretszchmar said he is drawn to the idea of ziplines and an aerial course at Howelsen because they can generate a quick return on investment.
City staff is working with Strategic Adventures, a Littleton-based consulting company, to look into the possibility of the aerial course and ziplines.
Company president Paul Cummings said the courses are growing more and more popular in the United States.
He said there are already thousands in Europe.
“There are about 200 in the U.S. right now, and next year, we should see at least 300,” Cummings said.
He added the parks usually see a 50-65 percent visitor return rate.
“They are something people want to come back and do again,” Cummings said.
Cummings said the costs to create an aerial adventure course can range from $600,000 all the way up to a few million dollars.
He said nationally, visitors to the parks pay an average of about $46 to use them for a few hours.
The aerial adventure course was one of several things about which the city’s parks and community services staff recently briefed the parks and recreation commission.
Other highlights include recent renovations of the grass infields at Emerald Park and the pending construction of a new playground at Howelsen to replace the old Howelsen beach playground.
“It’s probably going to be one of the nicest playgrounds in town, if not the nicest playground in town,” Howelsen Hill supervisor Brad Setter said.
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