Council to consider spending $750k for Howelsen Hill stabilization next year
Steamboat Springs — It’s getting more and more expensive to keep the city’s historic but mudslide-prone ski hill stable and safe.
Before the snow starts to fly again, the city of Steamboat Springs will have already spent $355,000 to fix all the damage from the most recent spring mudslide on Howelsen Hill, which damaged the chairlift and the Alpine slide.
Now, some even bigger repair bills are looming.
The Steamboat Springs City Council next week will consider a six-year capital improvement program that would spend about $880,000 throughout the next two years to further stabilize the city’s ski hill.
Finance Director Kim Weber said the work includes soil nailing and other significant ground work on multiple parts of the hill.
Former City manager Deb Hinsvark said last week that one of the costliest repairs on the hill involves shoring up a previous expensive repair that was made to the right of the 90-meter jump about six to seven years ago.
She suggested that because styrofoam was not used at the repair site as originally planned to prevent erosion, the repair has greatly deteriorated because the cavernous repair site stores snow in it.
Hinsvark said the deteriorating repair will also limit some snowmaking on that area of the hill.
“I cannot explain the city’s reason for not providing this styrofoam fix, but at this time, we have decided not to make snow for this area of the mountain until the original cavern ‘fix’ is shored up and the styrofoam installed,” Hinsvark wrote to council members in her manager’s report. “The cost for this is around $750,000 and you will see this on our CIP for a future year.”
The limited snowmaking could impact the usage of the 90-meter jump if there is not enough natural snow, Hinsvark said.
Weber said the proposed stabilization package for Howelsen goes beyond the repair near the 90-meter jump. Work is also planned to shore up the lower face of the hill that slid last year.
The spend on Howelsen stabilization efforts next year would be the largest in several years.
In the last decade, the city has spent a total of $730,000 to repair damage from six landslides, according to city staff.
The escalating costs of the hill’s upkeep has some council members starting to ask more about the annual subsidy and the hill’s usage.
Hinsvark told the council last week Howelsen saw about 1,000 skiers last winter season.
The city has in recent years subsidized Howelsen operations to the tune of between $600,000 to $700,000 per year.
Because of the landslide damage this year, that subsidy will be significantly more than the $630,000 the city estimated when it crafted the 2015 budget.
The city council last Tuesday night agreed the city should spend $88,000 now to complete the repairs on the upper saddle of the hill.
The repair will aim to improve the drainage in the area and prevent future slides like the one that damaged the Alpine slide.
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