Eric Washburn: SSWSC clearly benefits the community |

Eric Washburn: SSWSC clearly benefits the community

My wife and I have two boys in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, so we have been reading with great interest the ongoing debate about the relationship of Steamboat Springs to the club.

We moved to Steamboat Springs from Washington, D.C., four years ago so that we could raise our boys in the west and impart to them an outdoor, athletic lifestyle. Of all the Colorado mountain towns to which we could have moved, we chose Steamboat because I had spent time growing up down-valley near Phippsburg in the 1970s and knew of the reputation of the Winter Sports Club as a place that would afford our boys an opportunity to pursue their dreams of becoming world-class skiers.

Since then, we have been delighted by the year-round athletic opportunities the club has provided them. Our boys are constantly active, skiing and biking, which naturally limits their time in front of TVs and video game screens, something any modern-day parent can appreciate.

Moreover, the club’s elite coaches, including Steamboat’s incredible cadre of former Olympians, challenge them, mentor them and demonstrate to them that anything is achievable with enough hard work and dedication. It is an experience that literally is invaluable.

Now, more than at any time in our country’s past, we need places like the Winter Sports Club where our children can go to exercise outdoors in a safe, healthy and wholesome and supervised environment.

I would hope that our elected city council representatives can see the extraordinary value the club provides to so many taxpaying and voting Steamboat families and seek a workable and permanent solution, instead of simply trying to push off responsibility for maintaining this city facility, and potentially forcing the club to abandon Howelsen Hill altogether.   

This debate has created an “us-against-them” dynamic in Steamboat, reminiscent of the recent debate over the school bond measure, which is sad to watch. The city of Steamboat Springs and the Winter Sports Club are both part of “us,” the community of Steamboat Springs, and Howelsen Hill is a central part of our shared history. We are one community that needs a robust and successful Winter Sports Club for our kids, one out of three who are enrolled in it.  

As a first step toward solving this problem, the City Council ought to consider calling a time-out to these increasingly acrimonious discussions with the club and gathering some data.

Instead of debating the potential financial exposure of the city to future landslides on Howelsen Hill based on hyperbolic cost estimates of “tens of millions of dollars” that could “bankrupt the city” — estimates that have no analytical basis — we ought to find out exactly how much it is in fact going to cost to provide a permanent fix for the hill.

At that point, the City Council and the taxpaying residents of Steamboat can debate, based on a clear understanding of those costs, how to jointly chart a path forward that will ensure the long-term viability of Howelsen Hill, including whether there are options like a one-time bond issuance that could raise the money for such a permanent fix.

The club, including Howelsen Hill, clearly benefits the numerous Steamboat families that chose to enroll their children in it. It also imparts to the Steamboat community as a whole a very special international reputation due to its record of in producing Olympians that is unique in the world, helping to bring taxpaying visitors here throughout the year.

Let’s figure out how keep it that way.

Eric Washburn

Steamboat Springs

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