Council members call for new Howelsen Hill joint use agreement |

Council members call for new Howelsen Hill joint use agreement

Howelsen Hill shines under the lights beside downtown Steamboat Springs.
Courtesy Photo

— Several Steamboat Springs City Council members are calling for a new Howelsen Hill joint use agreement with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club that would do more to limit the city’s future financial risk.

“Ski areas are expensive to operate,” Councilman Scott Ford said Tuesday at a council workshop about the city’s historic ski hill. “We’re looking at how we can cap the risk.”

Councilman Tony Connell said the city cannot continue its existing agreement with the sports club and be “financially trustworthy to the citizens.”

To operate Howelsen, the city pays an annual subsidy from the general fund that totaled $625,546 in 2015.

In recent years, it has also had to shoulder several large bills to repair damage from landslides.

The City Council will have an opportunity to negotiate a new agreement with the SSWSC that would take effect in 2017.

What changes would be made are not yet clear, and council members will spend the coming months discussing the hill’s future.

The initial joint operating agreement with SSWSC was signed in 1987.

Tuesday marked City Council’s first foray into work sessions, and council members acknowledged the process was bumpy at times.

“Tonight hasn’t been smooth,” Council President Walter Magill said. “We’ve gotten some good things going, though, and it’s good to get some of this background out there.”

The discussion jumped wildly from topic to topic, ranging from the history of snowmaking operations at the hill to how the city even acquired the land for the ski area.

Some council members lamented there was even discussion about the possibility of the city not continuing to operate a ski hill in the future.

Magill kicked off the work session by asking his fellow council members whether they wanted to continue operating the ski hill.

The council quickly steered the conversation away from that question.

“We need to put to rest any notion that we are not going to continue operations” at Howelsen, Councilman Jason Lacy said. “We need to stop discussions about terminating any agreement right now and focus on the steps forward.”

Lacy suggested the council at some point form a committee to work with SSWSC on a new agreement in a positive manner.

His call was supported by several other council members who want to work with the sports club to chart a better future for the hill.

SSWSC Director Jim Boyne gave the council a presentation about the impact of the club on the community and its preliminary ideas for the future.

He said Howelsen will be the sports club’s home as long as the city will have it there.

Jim “Moose” Barrows urged the council to look at the bigger picture and explore ways to improve the ski hill.

“It’s a lot more than money,” Barrows said. “We need some leadership, and we need a community to embrace it, and we need you, as the owners of it, to support it and bring it into the 21st century.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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